Jean-Claude Juncker says Britain will never be able to build satellite to rival EU’s Galileo
July 17, 2020
Brexit Britain will never be able to build a satellite to rival the European Union’s Galileo global navigation system, Jean-Claude Juncker has said in a flagship speech he used to criticise major aspects of Theresa May’s Chequers plan.
The president of the European Commission poured cold water on Theresa May’s threat that Britain would construct its own satellite unless it was granted similar access to Galileo as the UK has now after Brexit.
Brussels has insisted that will not be legally possible because Britain, which has a successful space industry concerned it is missing out on EU contracts, will no longer be an EU member state.
In a wide-ranging speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mr Juncker repeated the EU’s Brexit red lines. He insisted that there must be no hard border in Ireland and that Britain could not ‘cherry-pick’ access to the Single Market after it leaves the bloc.
Despite ruling out one of the key planks of Mrs May’s Chequers agreement, Mr Juncker did offer Mrs May an olive branch by supporting the hard-won plan’s call for a free trade area between the UK and EU.
In truth, that proposal was made by EU-27 governments before the white paper that has so bitterly divided Conservatives was published.
Giving his fourth and final State of the Union address, Mr Juncker said, “A strong united Europe will allow its member states to reach for the stars. Thanks to our Galileo programme Europe is still in the space race.
No single member state would have been able to launch the sateillite that 400 million users round the world are benefiting from,” he said, “Without Europe there would be no Galileo.”
Profile | Jean-Claude Juncker
“We respect of course the British decision to leave our Union. But we regret it deeply,” Mr Juncker said, “but we also ask the British government to understand that someone who leaves the Union cannot be in the same privileged position of the member states."
In a blow to Mrs May’s controversial Chequers plan, which calls for single market access for goods but not for services, he added, “If you leave our Union you are no longer part of our Single Market. Certainly not only in parts of it”.
Brussels is conscious that Mrs May faces significant challenges in getting her party’s support for Chequers and in getting the final Brexit deal through parliament. The EU is also keen to ensure that Mrs May is not toppled before she can deliver Brexit because that would increase the risk of no deal.
“We agree with the statement in Chequers that the starting point should be a free trade area in the United Kingdom and the European Union,” he said before echoing Mrs May’s call for a deep and special relationship with the EU after Brexit.
“After 29 March 2019, the UK will never be an ordinary third [non-EU- country for us. The UK will always be a very close neighbour and partner in political, economic and security terms,” he said.
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But the former prime minister of Luxembourg insisted that Brussels would not abandon its call for a backstop to prevent the return of a hard border on Ireland after Brexit.
The EU has said that Northern Ireland should stay in the Single Market and Customs Union, if the UK’s preferred solutions of a free trade deal or technological solution fail to prevent the return of customs checks.
Mrs May has said that no British prime minister could accept that because it would lead to a de facto border in the Irish Sea between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland. The impasse remains the biggest threat to a successful end to the Brexit negotiations.
“The European Commission, this parliament and all other 26 Member States will always show loyalty and solidarity with Ireland when it comes to the Irish border,” Mr Juncker said. “It is not the European Union, it is Brexit that risks making the border more visible in Northern Ireland.”
In a warning to Britain, whose negotiator suggested the UK could force the EU to impose border controls on Dublin, he added, “We will defend all elements of the Good Friday Agreement”.
Mr Juncker, who will step down after European Parliament elections in May next year, said the commission owed it to citizens and businesses to secure an orderly Brexit with a deal.
“It will not be the commission which stands in the way of this,” he said.
A senior EU official dismissed suggestions that EU leaders might rejig their instructions for chief negotiator Michel Barnier when they meet May in Austria next week as both sides try to conclude a treaty that can be ratified by the two parliaments well ahead of March 29 when Britain is due to leave the EU, deal or no deal.
The prime minister’s spokesman said of Mr Juncker’s comments, "We are already committing funding to this work. We have world-leading experts in this area. However, we have been clear from the outset that we are seeking continued cooperation on Galileo and we believe it is in the best interests of the EU and the UK."