June 4, 2018 / 7:43 PM / in 19 days

France does not expect UK to develop own satnav rival to Galileo

PARIS, June 4 (Reuters) - France does not think Britain will launch a rival to the European Union’s Galileo satellite navigation system, minutes from a meeting between a cabinet minister and lawmakers show.

A row over Galileo, a rival of the U.S.-owned GPS, has become a flashpoint in Brexit talks after London accused the EU of shutting British firms out of the project.

“Some surprising announcements or positions were recently made public about Galileo,” Delphine Geny-Stephann, a junior economy minister, told French lawmakers in the May 17 hearing on Brexit, whose minutes were only made public on Monday.

“Considering the cost of the programme and the investment that would represent, about 10 billion euros, we find it hard to imagine they could go it alone,” she said.

Galileo was commissioned in 2003 and is due for completion by 2020. One expert said last month any rival system could cost about 3 billion pounds ($4 billion).

Geny-Stephann was asked about London’s threats to withdraw its authorisations to British companies working on Galileo.

“I see in that, more than anything else, a negotiation argument aimed at opening talks,” she is reported to have said.

The UK space agency, on behalf of the business minister Greg Clark, wrote to British companies asking them to consult the government before agreeing any new contracts to work on the project, in a move aimed at stopping the transfer of technology to EU companies.

Britain told the EU last month it would demand the repayment of up to 1 billion pounds if the bloc restricts its access to Galileo. (Reporting by Myriam Rivet and Michel Rose Editing by Alexander Smith)

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