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Brexit may exclude UK from the EU's GPS satellite program

Britain says it's "deeply disappointed" by the unsurprising news.
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AFP via Getty Images

Europe plans to exclude the UK from its GPS-like Galileo satellite program because of Brexit, and Britain isn't happy about it. In a letter to the UK government, Europe said that UK businesses may no longer be able to bid on the project and the UK military might not be able to use the system. That's because the UK will no longer be part of the EU on March 29th, 2019, so Galileo's security would be "irretrievably compromised" if it continues to participate, the EU said.

Europe had already decided to move the backup Galileo monitoring site from the UK to Spain, and UK businesses warned the government that work done in Britain could be lost due to Brexit. Nevertheless, UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson was reportedly "furious" about the move, according to the BBC, and called the EC's proposed exclusion "deeply disappointing."

The UK's argument is that it has already contributed a lot of expertise and money to Galileo. It also accused the EU of playing politics, because French companies might benefit if the UK can't participate. Williamson also said that the move will will impact security in both the UK and EU. It's worth noting, however, that since the UK no longer wants to be a member of the EU, it won't have any say about future European Commission (EC) decisions.

The government has been clear that we want our critical role in this important project, which will help strengthen European security, to continue as we develop our deep and special partnership with the EU.

"The government has been clear that we want our critical role in this important project, which will help strengthen European security, to continue as we develop our deep and special partnership with the EU," it told The Register in a statement. "This could only happen with complete UK involvement in all aspects of Galileo, including the key secure elements which the UK has unique specialisms in and have helped to design and implement."

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said she wants a full defense and security treaty with the EU, but negotiations are far from complete. The European Commission (EC) has told the European Space Agency (ESA) -- which isn't part of the European Union body -- that it should prepare for scenario where there's no Brexit deal in place. If the deal is finalized at the last hour, however, it might be too late for Britain to keep access to Galileo.

Britain is also preparing for a rift with the EU with plans to launch its own spaceport, for instance. The UK Defense Ministry is reportedly also looking at launching its own GPS-like system if talks with the EU fail.

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