The French economy minister Delphine Geny-Stephann doubts the UK’s financial ability to develop a rival programme to Galileo, Reuters reports.

A statement to this effect was made during a parliamentary hearing on May 17 but was published only on Monday, Jun 4.

“Considering the cost of the programme and the investment that would represent – about €10bn – we find it hard to imagine they could go it alone,” the minister said. The minister dismissed the threat of a stand-alone British programme as a negotiating tactic.

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

According to a statement issued by the UK space agency spokesman, a stand-alone programme would be economically viable. UK experts believe that a programme can be delivered for approximately  €6bn (£5bn)., although the time required has not been specified.

In May, the UK government made clear the UK would require a £1bn repayment should Britain be forced to leave the programme. Meanwhile, the British government has asked UK businesses to consult with the government before delivering on new contracts in the field to avoid technology transfer to EU companies.

The Galileo programme kicked off in 2003 and will be completed by 2020.

Galileo currently operates 22 satellites and 22 spacecraft. The satellite system can facilitate a multitude of services, from military targeting to roadmaps and advertising.

Brussels has made clear that it is legally not possible to hand over sensitive information to a “third country” and UK firms cannot be engaged in the programme at par with EU member states. The main objections to UK participation concerns access to so-called “blue channels” used for strategic infrastructure, including the military.

The UK wants to have its status effectively elevated, turning Galileo from an EU project to an EU-UK partnership. The UK has made clear that if it were to be excluded from Galileo it would downgrade the level of security cooperation with the EU.