The U.K. government says that access to satellites and space surveillance programs will suffer in the event of a “no deal” departure from the European Union.
Britain has less than six months to go before the country leaves the 28-member state bloc, after a little over half the country voted to withdraw membership from the European Union in a 2016 referendum. So far, the Brexit process has been a hot mess of political infighting and uncertainty, bureaucracy and backstabbing — amid threats of coups and leadership challenges. And the government isn’t even close to scoring a deal to keep trade ties open, immigration flowing and airplanes taking off.
Now, the government has further said that services reliant on EU membership — like access to space programs — will be affected.
The reassuring news is that car and phone GPS maps won’t suddenly stop working.
But the government said that the U.K. will “no longer play any part” of the European’s GPS efforts, shutting out businesses, academics and researchers who will be shut out of future contracts, and “may face difficulty carrying out and completing existing contracts.”
“There should be no noticeable impact if the UK were to leave the EU with no agreement in place,” but the U.K. is investing £92 million ($120 million) to fund its own U.K.-based GPS system. The notice also said that the U.K.’s military and intelligence agencies will no longer have access to the EU’s Public Regulated Service, a hardened GPS system that enhances protections against spoofing and jamming. But that system isn’t expected to go into place until 2020, so the government isn’t immediately concerned.
The U.K. will also no longer be part of the Copernicus program, an EU-based earth observation initiative that’s a critical asset to national security as it contributes to maritime surveillance, border control and understanding climate change. Although the program’s data is free and open, the U.K. government says that users will no longer have high-bandwidth access to data from the satellites and additional data, but admits that it’s “seeking to clarify” the terms.
Although this is the “worst-case scenario” in case of no final agreement on the divorce settlement from Europe, with just months to go and a distance to reach, it’s looking like a “no deal” is increasingly likely.