EU Trying to `Bully' U.K. Over Galileo, Says Science Minister

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union is acting like a “bully” by refusing to allow Britain to stay in the bloc’s Galileo satellite navigation system after Brexit, the U.K. science minister said.

The U.K. is planning to launch its own global sat nav system if it’s forced out of the 10 billion euro ($12 billion) Galileo program, but would prefer to stay and wants to reach a swift conclusion in order to protect British companies, Sam Gyimah told reporters on Thursday.

“I think it’s one of the few things in the negotiations so far that have managed to bring together Leavers and Remainers because it’s a clear case of the EU being uncharitable and trying to bully the U.K.,” he said.

Up until December, the U.K. government had assumed it would participate in Galileo, but the EU’s has now taken the “extremely odd” position that the U.K. should be excluded, he said. The EU and the U.K. have agreed they want a close security relationship after Brexit and Gyimah said the EU’s position on Galileo was “completely inconsistent” with that.

The EU’s negotiating guidelines state “there should be a strong EU-U.K. cooperation in the fields of foreign, security and defence policy.” The U.K. had promised unconditional commitment to European security, rowing back from earlier efforts to try and tie defense cooperation to a good post-Brexit trade deal.

On Wednesday, the U.K. floated again a veiled threat on defense cooperation, saying that joint work on Galileo would be “a test” of the ambitions of a security relationship.

Gyimah warned that “a significant” number of jobs were at stake if the U.K. leaves Galileo, and that’s why the U.K. government is trying to develop an alternative. While Airbus SE could still participate through its French operations, some of the smaller British companies may simply end up excluded, he said.

“There are a number of contracts coming up for tender and I think it requires some kind of swift resolution,” he said. “Or else U.K. companies will not be participating and we have a lot of the expertise.”

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