Britain starts work on new satnav system amid fears of being blocked from EU's Galileo
LONDON, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May has directed officials to start working on a British satellite navigation system amid an ongoing row with the European Union (EU) over Britain's access to the bloc's Galileo system after Brexit, British media reported.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has signed off funding amounting to as much as 100 million British pounds (129 million U.S. dollars) to "map out" the project, which will rival the continental system Britain had a key role in creating, according to The Telegraph.
The government confirmed in May that it is developing options for a British global satellite navigation system. Then junior Defense Minister Guto Bebb put the cost at 3 billion pounds to 5 billion pounds (3.86 billion dollars to 6.43 billion dollars).
The disclosure comes as EU officials said Britain, which is set to leave the EU in seven months' time, could be denied access to Galileo's sensitive security information.
Galileo, the 10-billion-euro (11.6 billion dollars) satellite program being developed by the EU to rival the American GPS, is intended to provide accurate position, navigation and time information for governments, citizens, industries and the military.
Britain has reportedly made critical contributions to the program, with its companies building payloads for the satellites and developing the security systems. The British government said there was mutual benefit for Britain to remain involved in Galileo but it needed assurance from Brussels that British industries could collaborate on an equal basis and Britain could have continued access to the necessary security-related information.
The government warned in May that it wanted 1 billion pounds (1.29 billion dollars) back from the EU if it was excluded from the Galileo system.
Britain has in fact started being frozen out of the program. In June, British firms were blocked from bidding for the next round of contracts for Galileo.
"There is an option on the table that would benefit both the UK and EU. If that is not accepted by the EU, we are a proud and confident nation and will be looking at all alternatives," British Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Sam Gyimah had said in furious response.