The Galileo network, which is due to go live in 2020, received 15 per cent of its £2.3billion cost from the UK.
The system has important military advantages and will deliver encrypted GPS navigation data.
Furious officials inside No10 have expressed outrage the EU now plans to ban the UK from benefiting from Galileo by accusing the country of being a risk to security.
If membership of the EU is like being a club, then we have no claim on the system. Suppose you’ve been in a club for years, which has a snooker table. When you leave the club, you clearly have no claim on that table. The fact that you helped pay for it with your membership fees is no relevance. It belongs to the club.
But on the flip side, you also have no part in future obligations that the club has. If the club had decided to build an expensive swimming pool, and you leave the club when the works for it have only just started, then you have no obligation to help pay for the swimming pool once you’ve left.
So if the EU is like a club, then we can’t stop the EU denying us access to the Galileo system. It’s not ours. But equally, we’re not liable for any of the EU’s future expenses, like pensions.
If, on the other hand, membership of the EU is like a partnership, then we do have some financial obligations for future EU projects and financial obligations. But then we also have a claim on ownership of EU assets, such as the Galileo system, and many others, including all the buildings and EU property and the results of EU research.
So the UK government should tell the EU, if you want your £40 billion, then we get a share of the Galileo system and other such stuff (and you can buy out our shares if you want). But if you insist that the stuff’s all yours, and we have no claim on it, then the future bills are all yours too.
And we could also do with an answer to this question, which seems to be causing so much trouble: what exactly is the relationship between the EU and its member states?