We cannot leave the EU and retain all the rights we had as members, as the tussle over this vital satellite system shows
A row over the UK’s access to the Galileo project, the European satellite global-positioning system used both for civil and military purposes, is the latest tussle about what Brexit would mean for British science and technology. For all the familiar, rhetorical huffing and puffing, the dispute is another illustration of the myriad small-print complexities that need to be resolved if the UK departs from the EU.
The government’s position, outlined in a document just released by the UK Space Agency, is that the UK wants to retain its participation in Galileo, including access to classified data from the satellite system needed for security and defence. The government says that this would be in the mutual interests of both the EU and the UK, that the proposed exclusion from “security-related discussions and exchanges to the post-2019 development of Galileo” is inconsistent with previous agreements. It stresses however that if some satisfactory arrangement can’t be reached then the UK will develop an alternative, competing system. And it will ask for a refund of Britain’s 12% contribution to the €10bn cost of Galileo.