Philip Hammond says UK will build its own satellite system if EU go ahead with Galileo snub
Britain will build its own satellite navigation system if it is shut out of the EU's Galileo programme after Brexit, Philip Hammond has declared.
The Chancellor's comments are the latest salvo in the ongoing row over when the UK should still have access to the technology.
Brussels insists that Britain will have to be treated the same way as any other non-EU member state in the future.
But the Government has demanded a rethink, insisting that the move would put the security of millions of citizens across Europe at risk.
In a letter to the EU, British officials said post-Brexit security co-operation would be compromised were Britain denied access to the Public Regulated Service (PRS) – a crucial navigation and timing signal used by government and the military – after March 2019.
Asked about the row as he arrived at a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels, Mr Hammond said: "We need access to a satellite system of this kind. 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."
David Davis took to Twitter on Thursday to protest at the EU's stance.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: “On the same day the ONS has confirmed that UK economic growth is the weakest it's been in 6 years, it's not surprising the Chancellor is looking to focus on matters in outer space.
“Working people will be rightly angry that Philip Hammond can find billions of pounds at the drop of a hat for a space programme, yet is not prepared to find the money our vital public services like the NHS desperately need.
“It's time the Chancellor came down to Earth to prove he is on the same planet as the rest of us by recognising what he is putting people in our country through with his austerity cuts.”
Lord Malloch Brown, chair of the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, said: "I hope and expect the Galileo issue will get amicably solved.
"But the fact we are scrambling to protect our basic security arrangements at a time of increasing international threats shows again that in national security terms Brexit is a deeply damaging own goal."