David Davis has warned Brussels it is risking lives by trying to exclude Britain from the Galileo satellite network.
Currently Britain shares sensitive data with partners through the network as part of an allied defence against Russia.
But the EU is insisting that as a third country, Brexit Britain should be excluded from the secure parts of the navigation system.
The Government has reacted with fury, insisting Britain has played a major role in funding and developing the rival to America’s GPS and Russia‘s GLONASS systems.
Brexit Secretary David Davis has insisted there was no ‘legal or operational’ reason for the EU to exclude Britain from the Galileo satellite system (file image) after Brexit
David Davis (pictured in Downing Street on Tuesday) has warned Brussels it is risking lives by trying to exclude Britain from the Galileo satellite network
Warning Brussels to change tack, Mr Davis said: ‘Our negotiating partners have a choice: they can treat us as a third country according to existing precedents creating something that falls well short of our existing [security] relationship.’
In his statement he said they could otherwise ‘take a more adaptable approach in which we jointly deliver the operational capability that we need to tackle the ever-evolving threats to our shared security’.
And he added: ‘To protect our citizens’ security, we need to look beyond existing precedents and find a solution that allows us to continue to work together.
‘There is no legal or operational reason why such an agreement could not be reached.’
To discourage Brussels, the Treasury is considering whether it can change licences held by UK firms to prevent them sending data into the system, it emerged yesterday
A Whitehall source said: ‘There is concern about what this means for the future of our security partnership.
‘The government said we were not going to make it a bargaining chip but the commission turning round and branding the UK a security threat has left us with concerns about what that means.’
A government spokesman said: ‘It is in our mutual interest to remain in [Galileo] as part of a strong security partnership with Europe.’
Downing Street said Theresa May had ordered officials to begin work on a British alternative to ensure that the UK could not be denied access to vital global positioning services
It emerged last week Britain could develop its own £5 billion satellite navigation system if the row is now resolved.
Downing Street said Theresa May had ordered officials to begin work on a British alternative to ensure that the UK could not be denied access to vital global positioning services.
Officials are also drawing up plans to claw back the £1.2 billion the UK has poured in to the project.
A Downing Street source said the PM would never allow Britain’s security to be threatened by Brexit.
The source said: ‘The PM is clear our collective security is too important to haggle over.
We want full access to Galileo, including the crucial secure elements that will help guide British missiles should they be needed to keep us all safe. But if we don’t get access, we will find an alternative.’
Privately, Whitehall officials blame France for galvanising opposition to Britain’s continued participation in the scheme.
And they warned that the EU’s stance could backfire as the Galileo system relies on ground bases in far flung overseas British territories, which would instead be used to help run a British rival.