Blog: How Brexit could help keep a high-speed Arctic internet plan aloft – Nunatsiaq News

Come January, the U.K. will likely be left without access to a precise sat-nav system. That could be good news for a plan to provide internet access across the Arctic.

A broadband-from-space network that was expected to be able to provide reliable, high-speed internet access to the Far North appears to have been rescued after the United Kingdom and the owner of the world’s third-largest mobile network said they would pay $1 billion to bail out the project’s bankrupt owner.

The British Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced on July 3 that the U.K. and Bharti Global Limited, an India-based telecom, would each put $500 million into Virginia and London-based OneWeb.

The investments will enable the firm to complete construction of a low-Earth orbiting constellation of satellites that, when complete, will provide enhanced broadband and other services to all parts of the globe at all times of the day.

OneWeb has billed its network as a way to facilitate commerce and public services in the region and had received the support of Lisa Murkowski, a senator from Alaska.

In the Arctic, the firm said it would be able to provide internet speeds of up to 375 Gbps and what it described as “fibre-like capacity” to people and businesses north of the 60th parallel.

The OneWeb constellation seeks to provide internet access around the globe. (OneWeb)

At the time it filed for bankruptcy at the end of March, OneWeb had launched 74 satellites and was completing or breaking ground on about half of its 44 ground stations. It had already begun providing service in Arctic Norway and Alaska in January.

Service was expected to be rolled out to the entire Arctic this year for a limited amount of time each day, and then extended to 24-hour availability next year, but those plans were delayed by the bankruptcy, which the company said resulted from an inability to raise funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alok Sharma, the U.K. business secretary, described the investment as a way for the U.K. to obtain its first “sovereign space capability,” and that it would help spur growth in an industry that already supports £300 billion (US$375 billion) in economic activity in the U.K.

The decision, however, is rooted in the U.K.’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union. In all likelihood, the U.K. will not be able to negotiate an agreement that would allow it to remain part of the Galileo satellite-navigation system, an EU version of the U.S.-controlled GPS system, before it leaves the union in January 2021.

With no agreement, the U.K. would still have access to Galileo’s open signals, but it would be cut off from the more precise signals needed for military and other advanced public, commercial and scientific purposes. The investment in OneWeb will allow the UK to become one of the few countries with its own satellite-navigation systems.

The investment is subject to U.S. court approval. A decision is expected before the end of the year.

This article originally appeared at Arctic Today and is republished with permission.

Blog: Brexit: UK wants deal with EU over NI food supply – BBC News

British and European flags

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Northern Ireland will follow EU rules on goods including foods; Great Britain will not

The UK government is seeking to agree “special provisions” with Europe over the food supply to Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

The environment secretary is seeking to cut a deal limiting trade friction after the Brexit transition.

George Eustice told a Lords scrutiny committee this was an issue for GB supermarkets supplying their NI stores.

Under the Withdrawal Agreement signed by the UK and EU, NI will follow EU rules on goods, including foods.

However, Great Britain will not.

The matter will be discussed at a joint committee of EU and UK representative who oversee the implementation of the treaty.

“I guess the most difficult thing is perhaps around composite loads from supermarkets taking a lorry with multiple products to an individual store in Northern Ireland,” Mr Eustice said.

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George Eustice conceded that time was “tight”

“We will be trying to work out whether there can be special provisions on that, otherwise it will cause quite an issue,” he said.

Mr Eustice said as there was no risk of such loads crossing the border, it would be possible to resolve the problem.

Retailers have warned that additional delays, checks and associated costs could push up prices and limit choice for consumers in Northern Ireland.

They had demanded much greater information on what paperwork – some of which can cost up to £200 -and how many physical checks would be required.

Mr Eustice said he was confident that processes could be put in place in time but he conceded the “time is tight”.

Committee chair Lord Teverson told the minister that evidence from NI businesses suggested they were “desperate” for greater detail on what processes they might face.

Mr Eustice said the recently published government position paper on the operation of the Northern Ireland protocol offered clarity.

He restated the government’s commitment that Northern Ireland agri-food would have “unfettered access” to its key market in Britain.

Blog: Brexit: What would Australia deal mean for Britons in France – The Connexion

In fact there is no comprehensive trade agreement between Australia and the EU, trade between them mostly follows World Trade Organization rules, including tariffs on many goods, though there are agreements in place for specific goods.

Such a bare-bones relationship would have implications for Britons who hope to move to France in future years after the Brexit transition period.

This comes as the UK has now excluded the possibility of extending the transition period beyond 2020. Up to the end of June it had the right to request an extension for a year or two but it declined to do so and said it would have refused if the EU had requested it.

Negotiations are continuing between the two sides this summer in a bid to conclude a deal, however time is extremely limited.

The EU’s wish is to sign a comprehensive treaty, covering wide-ranging matters from trade and fishing to judicial cooperation and social security. The UK’s preference is for several treaties, including a separate EU/UK social security agreement.

The latter would be expected to include rules on issues such as temporary and posted workers’ social security, coordination of pension contributions in the UK and EU, a continuation of Ehic-style cover for travellers’ healthcare and continued uprating (annual increases) of the British state pensions of Britons who move to EU countries after the transition period.

The EU has also expressed a willingness to continue a form of the S1 system for the healthcare cover of pensioners of one state who move abroad, as well as exportability of disability benefits, however the UK has not requested these.

Leaving with ‘Australia’ rules however would be an extremely bare-bones arrangement and unlikely to include any of these. The probable upshot would be that for any of them to continue, the UK would have to sign a new bilateral social security convention with France, at an unknown date.

This existed before the UK joined the EU, and it included pension uprating. It did not include an automatic right for expatriate pensioner healthcare, for example, meaning France could charge British pensioners.

British state pensions not uprated for those who move to Australia

The UK does not currently uprate (annually increase) state pensions of anyone moving abroad outside the EU/EEA to countries – such as Australia – with which it does not have a bilateral social security agreement.

As for healthcare for visitors, the UK does have agreements on this with some non-EU countries, but the arrangements are not usually as comprehensive as the EU’s ‘Ehic’ scheme. For example there is a reciprocal healthcare arrangement between the UK and Australia but this does not include any care for pre-existing conditions, while the Ehic does.

The UK’s travel advice for Australia therefore includes a recommendation to take out a comprehensive medical insurance policy for the trip.

It is important to note that pension uprating, S1 forms and exportable disability benefits will all be maintained for Britons benefiting from the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (WA), ie. those who are residents of France before the end of the transition period (December 31, 2020) and obtain one of the new WA residency cards for Britons in France.

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Good Brexit deal is key to future of UK-France trade, says Franco-British Chamber of Commerce and Industry president