EU to UK: We won’t reimburse Galileo satellite funding
News | 24.05.2018
There is “no basis” for the U.K.’s request to be reimbursed the €1 billion it contributed to the EU’s Galileo satellite system if it is frozen out of the project post Brexit, according to a senior EU official.
In what amounts to an initial response from Brussels to a concerted push by the British government to retain access to the system beyond the country’s exit, the official said the European Commission was open to negotiation, but the U.K.’s position was “quite a big ask.”
“I have the impression the U.K. thinks everything has to change on the EU side, so that everything remains the same on the U.K. side,” the official said, adding that London’s demands violated the “legal requirements” agreed by member countries (including Britain) when Galileo was set up.
Earlier Thursday, the U.K. published a “technical note” — first reported Wednesday by POLITICO — expressing its desire to continue participating in the program and stating that it could pursue the creation of its own rival system if it did not receive adequate access to Galileo. The EU will allow participation on a “third country” basis, but that would restrict access to certain security-sensitive data.
Earlier this month, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the EU Institute for Security Studies conference: “Third countries [and their companies] cannot participate in the development of security sensitive matters.”
The EU position has united Remainers and Leavers in Theresa May’s often warring Cabinet on the question of future access to a system the U.K. regards as something it has part ownership of. The British government has set future access as a test case for the closeness of U.K.-EU security cooperation post Brexit.
Speaking at a briefing Thursday, the senior EU official said that the U.K.’s proposal to redraw the satellite program as a “joint EU-UK program” allowing privileged access after the country leaves the bloc would need to be put to the EU27 for discussion. London has made public demands for reimbursement of the money it contributed to the program already. But the official indicated the suggestion — which has not been presented formally in negotiations — was a non-starter which would amount to “backsliding” on the financial settlement it agreed in December.
The official specified that the U.K. is asking for privileged access to security-related data as well as manufacturing the security modules. The proposal would mean that the U.K. would “have the possibility to turn off the signal for the EU,” and that in some circumstances, the U.K. could have “information that currently not all member states have,” according to the official.
“We will also take this back to the member states and we will report back on how we will develop this,” the official said.
Asked whether shutting the U.K. out of security-related matters was a sign of distrust, the official responded: “That is not the issue. The EU is a rules-based system … Why is that? Because 28 member states do not trust each other spontaneously … They trust each other because there are remedies available. You don’t trust each other when there are no remedies.”
The official warned that the U.K. having access to sensitive information flowing through Galileo could threaten the EU’s autonomy, “or to use a term dear to the U.K., it will breach the sovereignty of the EU.”