Obsolete software from 1990s features in Brexit deal text

The EU-UK Brexit deal refers to defunct decades-old computer software such as Netscape Communicator as “modern”, raising suspicions that some of the text may have been copied and pasted in.

Online commenters gleefully shared the observation that page 921 of the painfully birthed trade agreement refers to Netscape Communicator – released in June 1997 – and Mozilla Mail as being “modern e-mail software packages”.

A section on encryption technology also gave rise to suspicions that officials simply pasted large chunks of text from previous documents into the deal, which has been lauded by its backers as the beginning of a new chapter in relationship between the UK and the EU.

Computer scientist Prof Bill Buchanan reminded followers of what Netscape looked like back in the day, tweeting: “One day we will build a digital world fit for the 21st Century …”

The references sparked a wave of nostalgia on Twitter and the trading of memories about old internet browsers such as Netscape, which was edged out in the 1990s by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

The text of the deal reads: “s/MIME functionality is built into the vast majority of modern e-mail software packages including Outlook, Mozilla Mail as well as Netscape Communicator 4.x and inter-operates among all major e-mail software packages.”

Other eagle-eyed observers noted how the agreement recommended the use of 1024-bit RSA encryption and the SHA-1 hashing algorithm, both of which are susceptible to cyber-attacks on account of their age.

Liz Truss kicked off trade talks with Japan in June with a promise that the UK could establish itself as a “global technology superpower”.

“I really do feel that we are world-leading in technology,” said the secretary of state for international trade.

Separately, the UK announced on Tuesday that it had signed a free trade deal with Turkey, its first since agreeing a Brexit deal to leave the EU.

Parliament will be recalled on Wednesday in order for MPs to debate and vote on the bill to enact Downing Street’s trade agreement with the EU. An 80-page draft version of the bill was published on Tuesday, leaving little time for members of parliament and others to scrutinise it.


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