We now know that the Galileo project that we have contributed £1.39 billion into has been withdrawn from us, despite the government fighting for the military to have access to the highly encrypted parts of the system which have largely been developed here in the UK. We cannot get any benefit from this system, as we have been frozen out by the EU unless of course, we pay a great deal more money to access the system when it is operational in 2020. This satellite system provides a navigation system for defence and critical national infrastructure purposes.
The system would have also supported mobile phones and sat nav systems. It is to be launched in 2020, and no timeline has been given as to when Britain will have a similar system operational. Theresa May has said we will build our own, the cost of which is estimated to be between £3-5 Billion. This new system will have to be compatible with GPS used by the USA in order to maintain cover if one of the systems was under attack. Mrs May has tried to put pressure on Brussels by putting forward £92 million into a scoping exercise to develop our own system. She has further talked tough about not being an end user of the Galileo system, and therefore the need for our own system is important.
What is clear is that the EU is not budging. What is also clear is that they now want the UK, having put in £1.39 billion, to be a commercial user, and at what cost.
The other main project which is currently jointly serviced and used by the UK and the EU is sis2 (Schengen Information System). Whilst we have not been told we cannot use this anymore, what was made clear by the Home Secretary Sajid Javid at the Home Affairs Select Committee on 27th November, was that he cannot guarantee that we will be `allowed` to continue to use this sharing of information post Brexit in March next year.
It did take some getting out of him this admission. He tried his best to obfuscate and fudge but well done the Labour MP`s on that committee for ensuring they got the truth. The Home Secretary has issued a thin document which outlines the pathway to maintain our involvement. It does not state in any way that it may be the case that we lose our use of this system.
Schengen Information system provides a highly efficient information system which is vast. It supports external border control and law enforcement cooperation with all Schengen states. In essence, it allows coppers and border guards to enter the system and look at alerts on certain categories of wanted or missing persons and objects too.
An alert on the system contains vital information on a particular person or object, but it also directs the person investigating as to what to do if they have found the person or the object. The whole point of sis2, therefore, is to allow those that need it, instant information on anyone travelling throughout Schengen area for the purposes of safety, law enforcement cooperation and vehicle registration information.
Clearly, with our current open borders and the number of vehicles arriving and leaving each day from the country, sis2 is an invaluable sharing system of which we make much use. The daily, weekly and annual applications to the system numbers are staggering. The UK does not, of course, have its own system on anywhere like this volume and detail. The gathering of such information will take many years, and the costs in setting up a new system will again be exceptionally high.
Sis2 operates in 30 European countries, including the 27 member states of the EU. Special arrangements exist with Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia since August of this year. The UK is, of course, not a part of the Schengen area, but we do operate sis2. We cannot issue access or issue Schengen wide alerts for refusing entry or stay within Schengen areas, therefore. But we do use and access all other areas of the system.
It follows from the foregoing that losing access to and sharing information on this system would be a major blow to the UK agencies dealing with crime, the mobility of peoples and border control. It is a further example of the EU spitting their dummy out and punishing the UK for having the temerity to leave their club. Or is it. Surely this major collaboration would have been protected throughout the negotiations to leave by the government when initial negotiations took place, surely the powers that be involved, would have set this and Galileo aside and ring-fenced these systems, having invested in them so heavily. It appears not.
You just have to wonder what has been going on in the last two years, what else are they hiding that they have given away or withdrawn from.