18 June 2020TrademarksSarah Morgan

Barnier criticises UK’s attempt to reopen GI talks

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has rebuked the UK government, after it attempted to reopen an agreement to protect geographical indications (GIs), such as champagne and parma ham.

In a plenary session of the European Parliament yesterday, June 17, Barnier said that the move to reopen the agreement is “not compatible” with a sustainable future relationship.

“The UK has even wanted to reopen the whole question of GIs, which are clearly protected in the withdrawal agreement,” said Barnier.

Under last year’s withdrawal agreement, which entered into force in February 2020, more than 3,000 GIs are protected. The UK agreed to apply the same level of protection through its domestic law as the EU provides now.

The agreement protects nearly 90 UK food, drink and agricultural products, such as Welsh lamb, Scotch whisky and Cornish pasties.

Last month, the UK  published its terms for a free trade agreement with the EU, omitting any reference to GIs.

In a document outlining the UK’s approach to negotiations, the government said: “There are different ways of proceeding on GIs and the UK will keep its approach under review as negotiations with the EU and other trading partners progress. Any agreement on GIs must respect the rights of both parties to set their own rules on GIs and the future directions of their respective schemes.”

If there is no agreement between the UK and the EU, the UK has confirmed that it will set up its own GI scheme. The UK’s department for environmental, food and rural affairs will manage the new schemes, maintaining the registers of protected product names and process new applications.

Barnier has claimed that the attempt to reopen GI talks, in addition to the country’s refusal to provide more details about post-Brexit food safety standards and its state-aid regime, is not compatible with the “basis of a sustainable, ambitious, agreement with a major country which is likely to remain our friend, ally and partner”.

However, after high-level talks earlier this week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he believes that there’s no reason why the outline of a Brexit deal cannot be put together by the end of July. Further rounds of negotiation are planned for August and September.

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27 November 2019   A global geographical indication system operated by the World Intellectual Property Organization, which provides protection for names identifying the geographic origin of products such as coffee, tea, fruits, and cloth, will come into force in February 2020.
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