Just as the brinkmanship between London and Brussels over the Galileo satellite navigation system threatens to derail Theresa May’s preferred ‘deep and special relationship’ with the EU on security and defence matters, so British companies face the prospect of being cold-shouldered from future EU projects.
Already, a big question mark hangs over British aerospace industry’s participation in future work on Galileo, the final phase of which is expected to be worth some €10 billion. Its’s worth noting here that Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has built all 22 Galileo satellites to date and that other UK-based businesses are also heavily involved, most notably in supplying technology and expertise for its highly sensitive Public Regulated Service (PRS) for defence and security purposes. All that is now in jeopardy.
There can be no denying the complexities of the ongoing discussions, but time is pressing and – as with the EU/ESA Copernicus remote sensing satellite programme – nothing of substance has been agreed. Uncertainty is rife and, perhaps as another ‘backstop’ option, the UK Space Agency has been charged by Government to lead the development of a British alternative to Galileo.1 So maybe it comes down to what science writer Philip Ball suggested in a recent article in The Guardian2, “Once again it seems that the only way we’ll have our cake and eat it is by baking our own.”