Britain will build own satellite system if no access to EU’s – Hammond

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Britain would develop its own separate satellite navigation system if it lost access to the Galileo project, the European Union’s version of GPS, Britain’s finance minister said on Friday.

Britain told the European Union on Thursday it will demand the repayment of up to 1 billion pounds ($1.34 billion) if the bloc restricts its access to Galileo.

“The 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 U.S., to build a third competing system,” Philip Hammond told reporters before a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels.

“For national security strategic reasons we need access to a system and we’ll ensure that we get it,” he added.

He said Britain was aware of the short time available for talks on its departure from the European Union and was working on “all sorts of options” to maintain the open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland after it leaves.

“We are very conscious of the ticking clock and the need to make significant progress for the June European Council”, Hammond said, adding that a comment from a senior EU official on “fantasy” Brexit gambits were not “particularly helpful”.

($1 = 0.7488 pounds)

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio, editing by Philip Blenkinsop

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