The government continues to stick to its guns over Brexit, with Chancellor Philip Hammond recently saying that the UK could build its own satellite navigation network if Brussels blocks access to the European Space Agency's Galileo project.
Galileo is a €5 billion EU initiative to create a rival to the US-led Global Positioning System (GPS), which would be open to civilian use worldwide. Plans were announced to move the system's backup site to Spain earlier this year.
The European Union has said that it is likely to block British firms from working on or accessing encrypted signals from Galileo, citing legal issues. In 2011, the UK was part of a group that agreed rules to block non-EU countries from access to these secure elements.
However, following the government's desire to have its big Brexity cake and eat it, too, Hammond said that he could not accept the EU's decision.
"We need access to a satellite system of this kind," he told journalists. "A plan has always been to work as a core member of the Galileo project, contributing financially and technically to the project.
"If that proves impossible then Britain will have to go it alone, possibly with other partners outside Europe and the US, to build a third competing system. But for national security strategic reasons we need access to a system and will ensure that we get it."
Australia could be a potential partner for such a system.
An EU official, speaking to The Guardian, said that it was clear that the UK "would like to transform Galileo from a union programme to a joint EU-UK programme, and that is quite a big ask for the EU.
"They want to have privileged access to the security elements of PRS (the encrypted navigation system for government-authorised users) and to be able to continue manufacturing the security modules which would mean that after Brexit the UK, as a third country, would have the possibility to turn off the signal for the EU.
"It also means they are asking for information and the possibility to produce the security modules that would give them information that currently not all member states have."
EU commenters and negotiators have continually accused their opposite numbers in the UK of ‘chasing a fantasy' when it comes to Brexit. The Galileo dispute, it seems, is the latest evidence backing up their claims.
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