Boris Johnson is ready to bid £400million to secure a stake in satellite operator OneWeb with Britain set to lose access to the EU’s Galileo system. OneWeb will be able to deliver the same services as Galileo does.
Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak signed off on the bid for 20 per cent in the US operator Thursday night. OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a result of a hard hit by the coronavirus but still has its headquarters in London.
Brussels said in 2018 that the UK’s role in Galileo was due for negotiation, a move that angered ministers considering the amount of money Britain had already invested in the project.
However, officials revealed to the Times that the transaction for a stake in OneWeb was at “a very advanced stage,” after the Government cancelled plans to create its own satellite navigation system due to cost.
OneWeb is quite big as it was once thought to be the main competitor to SpaceX’s Starlink. Theresa May in November 2018, pulled the plug on the UK’s defence and security participation in the system after Brexit.
It was reported that Britain had already invested £1.2billion in the system.
Theresa May told reporters at the G20 in Buenos Aires: “The commission decided that we would be barred from having full aspects of the Galileo programme and so it is right for us to look for alternatives because it would be wrong to put our services relying on a system on which they couldn’t be sure of.
“That would not be in our national interest.
“So what is in our national interest is to say no, you haven’t allowed us full access, so we will develop an alternative, we will look at alternative options, we are doing that work but we will work with other international partners to do so as well.”
Officials had argued that the UK could still be involved in commercial aspects of the system, but Theresa May insisted the UK had “world-class engineers and steadfast allies around the world. We are not short of options.”
In the first place, the Galileo system was established to create a high precision GPS system independent of the US or Russia.
When Sam Gyimah resigned as Universities Minister in December 2018, he cited EU wrangling over Galileo as a factor, saying: “But Galileo is only a foretaste of what’s to come under the Government’s Brexit deal.
“As minister with the responsibility for space technology I have seen first-hand the EU stack the deck against us time and time again, even while the ink was drying on the transition deal.
“Galileo is a clarion call that it will be ‘EU first’, and to think otherwise – whether you are a leaver or remainder – is, at best, incredibly naive.