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SPACE

Madrid wins bid to takeover Galileo support centre from UK post-Brexit

Spain has won its bid to host the Galileo satnav monitoring system after the EU decided to relocate the centre from the UK following Brexit.

Madrid wins bid to takeover Galileo support centre from UK post-Brexit
Photo: European Space Agency (ESA)

The UK had won the contract, in 2010, to provide the centre for EU’s advanced GPS satellite system but the European Commission decided the centre must be relocated to remain in the EU once Britain leaves.

The Galileo system went live last year and will eventually involve 30 satellites but the new base for the Galileo Security Surveillance Centre will be fully operation from Madrid by April 2019.

“Today the committee of the member states’ representatives met and we can confirm that the committee voted in favour, by a large majority, of our commission proposal to relocate the centre to Spain,” a spokesperson for the European commission told reporters in Brussels on Thursday.

The committee of 27 member states – excluding the UK – voted almost unanimously to move the Galileo satellite centre to Madrid, but the decision will not be made official until next week.

The centre will provide back up to the Galileo system, supporting the primary hub in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris.

The system  is designed to provide highly accurate global positioning information for phones, cars, maritime, air, rail and emergency services and was created so the EU had its own technology, and would not be forced to rely on the system provided by the US military. 

The Spanish government hopes the centre, which will cost about €4 million to build, will support up to 100 direct jobs.

It will be located in San Martín de la Vega, on an industrial estate 35km southwest of the capital.

Cristina Cifuentes, president of the Madrid regional government speaking ahead of the news that Spain’s bid had been successful said “It would be great news , consolidating Madrid as a leader in technology.”

This is the third European agency confirmed to leave the UK as a result of Brexit.

The European Banking Authority (EBA) is due to move to Amsterdam in early 2019 and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will transfer to Paris.

 

BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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