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Britain to demand £1 billion back from EU in Brexit satellite row

Luke James
Brussels correspondent
The first two satellites of Europe’s Galileo navigation system being fired into space in 2011 (Reuters)

The UK government is to insist the EU repays around £1bn if it is locked out of the Galileo satellite navigation system after Brexit.

The prospect of clawing back funds invested in the project is included in a document to be published today by David Davis’ Brexit department.

It’s designed to increase pressure on the EU to give the UK full access to the system, which has become one of the major disputes in Brexit negotiations.

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said the bloc has no choice but to limit UK access because it cannot share sensitive data with third countries.

That could see the UK locked out of the encrypted signal vital for military use.

British firms are also to be excluded from bidding for work on the project and a ground control centre is set to be moved from the UK.

In today’s paper, the UK government says its exclusion from Galileo contravenes the Brexit deal done in December and would limit security cooperation.

“Current EU restrictions on UK participation will have implications for the ceiling placed on future UK-EU security cooperation,” states the paper seen by the BBC.

Brexiteer MEP Diane James said the EU’s stance over Galileo is “bizarre” and potentially dangerous (European Parliament)

It also warns the EU would be left with delays and extra costs for the project without the UK.

France is among half a dozen EU countries keen for the UK to retain full access to the system, according to the Times.

But the paper reports today that a “German clique” led by European Commission General Secretary Martin Selmayr is taking a hard line on the UK’s exclusion.

The story prompted a furious row over the issue in the European Parliament today.

Brexiteer MEP Diane James said she found it “absolutely bizarre” that the EU would do something to weaken security cooperation.

But Labour’s leader in the European Parliament, Richard Corbett, said the UK had voted for the rules which excluded third countries for full access to the system.

“Far from the EU being the one throwing Britain out, it’s the British government that has taken the decision to leave,” he said.

In response to James, Portuguese socialist MEP Ana Gomes said: It really was a treat to see a Brexiteer actually regretting that the UK had excluded itself from Galileo and much more.”

MORE: EU faces Brexit rebellion as German politicians stand-up for UK over Galileo