UK to begin process of purchasing sat-nav system after pulling out of EU scheme

Stock image of a satellite launch. Photograph: Piqsels/CC.

Stock image of a satellite launch. Photograph: Piqsels/CC. - Credit: Archant

Britain has begun the process of purchasing its own satellite navigation system for defence and critical national infrastructure purposes, according to reports.

The Times says prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak signed off on the purchase of a 20% stake in satellite operator OneWeb on Thursday night, after the UK was unable to access the EU's Galileo satellite navigation system because of Brexit.

The PM agreed 'to put up about £500 million' of taxpayer money for the purchase, according to the Financial Times, which said the funds were part of a larger private sector consortium bid.

The FT also said Johnson's chief adviser Dominic Cummings was 'instrumental' in pushing for the UK's involvement in the bid, as the Government seeks a system that will support mobile phones and provide vital location information for the military and businesses.

OneWeb filed for bankruptcy in March in the US, where most of its operations are located, after failing to secure new funding.

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It is headquartered in Britain and has 74 satellites in orbit along with plans for hundreds more.

Previously, the UK aimed to build its own global navigation satellite system, at a cost estimated by independent experts of £3-£5 billion.

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Then-prime minister Theresa May said in December 2018 that Britain expected to work with the US and other 'Five Eyes' partners.

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