U.K. Threatens EU on Security Cooperation Over Galileo Standoff

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. renewed its threat on defense cooperation with the European Union, saying that joint work on the bloc’s Galileo navigation satellite program would be a test of the ambitions of a post-Brexit security relationship.

“The arrangements for any U.K. cooperation on Galileo are an important test case of the depth of operational cooperation and information sharing envisaged under the Security Partnership,” the government said Wednesday in a document outlining its vision for defense cooperation with the EU.

The veiled threat on the penultimate page of a 39-page document is no accident: The EU has said in recent months it’s looking at how to adjust the Galileo program -- intended as a European equivalent to the U.S Global Positioning System network -- once Britain is outside the bloc. The Financial Times reported that British companies risk losing out on lucrative contracts with the EU looking to shut Britain out of some of the most sensitive parts of the program -- even though it contributes a sizable chunk of its budget.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s position on security cooperation has been inconsistent. In March last year, she suggested that collaboration was contingent on Britain securing a good trade deal with the EU. That prompted the ire of her European counterparts including Guy Verhofstadt -- the European Parliament’s point person on Brexit -- who said “security is far too important to start to bargain it against an economic agreement.”

After a disastrous snap election stripped her of a majority, May changed tack, promising in September that Britain “is unconditionally committed to maintaining Europe’s security.” But the EU’s apparently uncompromising stance on Galileo has forced her to revert to using security as a bargaining chip. Her government is also talking about setting up a rival to Galileo.

“It is right that our brilliant defense scientists and military experts have started work scoping out the possibilities of developing our own satellite system” while talks continue over the U.K.’s role in Galileo, Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson wrote in the Telegraph on Tuesday.

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