Continued British participation in “Galileo” is not guaranteedby Enea Desideri / May 3, 2018 / Leave a comment
If you were already struggling to grasp the earthly complexities of leaving the European Union, hold fast because Brexit has gone into orbit. Following reports that the UK could soon be cut out of the EU’s Galileo satellite programme, attention has recently shifted towards post-Brexit cooperation on space projects, including speculation that the British government could launch its own satellite system. But what is this all about?
Galileo is the EU’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). Developed by the non-EU European Space Agency (ESA), it is funded and owned by the EU and supervised by the European Commission. It is scheduled to become fully operational in 2020 and, thanks to the anti-jamming and anti-spoofing capabilities of its Public Regulated Service (PRS) encrypted core, it should provide the EU with an alternative, and more accurate, navigation system to the American GPS. Some of Galileo’s services are open to the mass-market, but only member states have an automatic right to access its encrypted system.
The UK will generally remain part of EU agencies and bodies during the Brexit transition, and it could largely continue participating in the Galileo programme. But with uncertainty reigning supreme over future UK-EU relations, one immediate consequence of Brexit is that Galileo’s back-up security monitoring centre, which was set to be based near Southampton, will be relocated to Spain. Additionally, reports have recently emerged that continued British participation in the encrypted aspect of the programme could end, even during the transition period.
Article 122 (7b) of the draft Withdrawal Agreement’s section dealing with transition arrangements—which the British government has agreed to—grants the EU the possibility of excluding the UK, which is due to become a “third country” post-Brexit, from the PRS on security grounds. This would mean preventing UK companies from working on sensitive information pertaining to Galileo from March 2019, in the absence of an agreement dictating otherwise. Many companies have already started taking steps to prepare for this eventuality.
Meanwhile, the European Space Agency has reportedly been instructed by the European Commission to plan for the scenario that the UK is no longer directly involved in Galileo. It should be noted here that throughout the Brexit negotiations the European Commission has told various other EU bodies and regulatory agencies to plan for the possibility of “no deal,” and the end of UK participation. The exact nature of the UK’s future involvement in Galileo will ultimately depend on the details of the future…