U.K. May Pull Out of Galileo Project With EU Playing `Hardball'

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. may withdraw from the European Union’s Galileo satellite navigation system if the bloc continues to play “hardball” over the level of future British involvement, a minister said.

The EU has made it harder in recent months for British companies to win contracts for the next stages of the 10 billion-euro ($12 billion) Galileo program, and has also raised the prospect of excluding Britain from the project’s Public Regulated Service -- the encrypted navigation usage for government and defense purposes.

“We want to be part of the secure elements of the system and we want U.K. industry to be able to bid for contracts on a fair basis,” Science Minister Sam Gyimah said on Monday in a BBC radio interview. “It is only on those terms that it makes sense for the U.K. to be involved in that program.”

Gyimah said the U.K.’s withdrawal would cost other EU nations “billions of pounds more” to roll out the program. He called the EU’s stance on Galileo in Brexit negotiations “extremely disappointing,” and repeated a statement that Britain is looking to develop its own system if it can’t participate.

“Quite rightly because of the implications for us in terms of defense and our national security, were we not to be able to participate in Galileo, we would look at alternative options and we would leave nothing off the table,” Gyimah said. “That includes developing a British satellite and navigation system.”

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