The president of the European Commission has attempted to pour cold water on British Prime Minister Theresa May’s threat that Britain would construct its own satellite unless it was granted similar access to Galileo as the UK has now after Brexit.
Brussels has insisted that it will not be legally possible because Britain, which has a successful space industry concerned it is missing out on EU contracts, will no longer be an EU member state.
In a wide-ranging speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mr Juncker repeated the EU’s Brexit red lines. He insisted that there must be no hard border in Ireland and that Britain could not ‘cherry-pick’ access to the Single Market after it leaves the bloc.
“We respect of course the British decision to leave our Union. But we regret it deeply,” Mr Juncker said, “but we also ask the British government to understand that someone who leaves the Union cannot be in the same privileged position of the member states.”
But the issues surrounding Galileo are deeply concerning; Britain has played a major part in the development of Galileo, contributing some £1.2 billion to the project.
Galileo is a 10 billion euro (£9 billion) European rival to the US GPS system, which is expected to be fully operational in 2026 and has been highly dependent on British Industry, especially in encryption technology.
Removing the UK access to Galileo would be a loss of “strategic autonomy” for the bloc. Mr Juncker must remember that the UK is a world leader in not only defence industry and technology but also in defence strategy. It is one of only three EU countries that spend over 2% of GDP on defence, has its own, independent seat on the UN Security Council and is a major player in the five eyes partnership.