Predictions 2017.17 – Monica Horten

December 15, 2016

The starting point for Brexit negotiations is a shifting target and will be determined by process, but let’s assume that at some point in late 2017, the Digital Single Market arises on the agenda. What might be the specific points for discussion? The devil will, of course, be in the detail.

Starting where there has already been some debate – the GDPR. This is a thorny matter because a Britain which is outside the EU will need have to comply with the rules for third-country transfer. That will almost certainly require an adequacy decision from the European Commission, in order for businesses to transfer data across the new border.

Roaming creates another headache for the negotiations. Will the Germans be watching Netflix like at home whilst we get Bill Shocks? And still under the Brexit radar, but economically of some importance, is the fate of the British broadcast industry and the licensing of television channels which broadcast to other EU countries.

The issue is not just about whether the British government says it will uphold the EU law on these points, implying that the rights of businesses and citizens will therefore be protected. It’s more about the ability of the EU – minus Britain – to withhold something crucial which will result in a loss for British citizens and businesses. For example, the British government may give assurances that it will implement the GDPR. Fine. However, there are political reasons why the EU may choose not a grant the adequacy decision, irrespective of whether Britain implements the GDPR. There is political awareness in Brussels of British intelligence services activities tapping into German Internet cables, which dates back to Edward Snowden’s revelations. More recently of course, the passing of the Investigatory Powers Act effectively underwrites bulk surveillance by the security services. Either of those would not pass the adequacy test. And so the requirement for an adequacy decision provides a ready-made political football for the EU negotiators.

It is a similar story with the other two examples. Both roaming and broadcast licensing offer opportunities for canny negotiators to pull political fast-ones. Negotiating the exit from the Digital Single Market threatens to be a rough ride. Just keep calm…

Dr Monica Horten is a Visiting Fellow, LSE. She currently serves as a
Council of Europe expert on the Programmatic Co-operation Framework for
Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, and was a member of the Committee of
Experts on Internet Freedom. Her latest book is {The Closing of the Net: /} (Polity 2016). Website: {} and Twitter: @Iptegrity