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C4iSR: Joint & Common Equipment

UK shut out as EU pushes ahead with Galileo

15 June 2018
An artist’s impression of four Galileo navigation satellites being deployed from a special dispenser attached to the upper stage of the Ariane 5 rocket. Further UK industrial involvement in the project looks doubtful after the remaining EU members of the European Space Agency Council voted to move ahead with the next phase of contract awards. Source: European Space Agency

The United Kingdom has effectively been frozen out of the Galileo satellite navigation project after the European Union (EU) opted to proceed with the next stage of the effort ahead of any agreement that might allow British firms to compete for contracts.

A vote on 13 June by the council of the European Space Agency (ESA) that is delivering the project on behalf of the EU saw the remaining 27 EU member states agree to move ahead with issuing the next round of awards for the EUR10 billion (USD12 billion) enterprise.

That this decision was taken before terms could be agreed between the parties for continued post-Brexit involvement of the UK means that the country is now effectively a third party to the programme, with no scope for continued industrial participation.

In May, the Minister for Defence Procurement, Guto Bebb, said that the UK would be willing to walk away from Galileo and develop its own national system if it was unable to remain a full member of the project into which it has already invested GBP1.2 billion (USD1.6 billion).

While this decision to regard the UK as a third country does not formally exclude it from Galileo (Norway and Switzerland both enjoy third-party access), it does mean that many of the UK’s key demands for its involvement cannot be met. These include full eligibility for UK companies to compete for contracts, as well as unrestricted access to the encrypted Public Regulated Service (PRS) for the government and military, control of the PRS signal, and full participation in all security and PRS matters.

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