Predictions 2018 - 12

Dr Monica Horten focuses on the effects of Brexit on tech and tech industries

From Dr Monica Horten 

Regulatory alignment, regulatory divergence or even regulatory shadowing  – what will it all mean for communications and technology industries, and  the users of their services, in 2018?

In Britain, we face a time-limited question, the response to which will have consequences for years to come. I am of course referring to the 8 December political agreement on the terms of the Brexit ‘divorce’. Amidst all the smoke and mirrors, this agreement is only the precursor to a detailed final agreement. It does not close off the arguments about hard vs soft, or even Norway vs Canada vs Singapore. On the contrary, it is the first snip of the fabric and the hard bargaining is only just beginning.

Regulatory alignment with the Single Market would seem to be the EU bottom line, but the language in the negotiators’ joint report is, probably deliberately, opaque. In the case of a ‘no-deal’ scenario, the severity of the consequences for Britain could be dependent on the interpretation of the ‘full alignment’ language. As I write this, I have seen a multiplicity of interpretations ranging from a limited manoeuvre, to a complete sea-change of direction.

So will we be inside or outside, aligned or diverging, excluded or shadowing? The position taken will be critical with regard to the Digital Single Market.

Communications and technology industries have had a low profile in the public debate compared with other sectors, but it is clear that they will not escape the consequences. There are issues yet to be resolved with regard to Digital Single Market (DSM) policy, such as intermediary liability and copyright (Article 13 of the proposed new Copyright Directive) or video-sharing platforms (Article 28 of the proposed new Audio-visual Media Services Directive). It is arguably in our national interest to be able to shape these outcomes. Britain already has decreasing influence, yet ‘full alignment’ presumes we will retain an interest for the long term.

The political decision will determine the future opportunities for British digital businesses. Large technology and communications  businesses can adapt, for example, by moving their servers to an  EU27 jurisdiction, but smaller players and users could be negatively  impacted in the face of a ‘shifting sands’ regulatory landscape.

How to square these different circles to get the best for British technology businesses and Internet users – that is the challenge for 2018.

Dr Monica Horten is a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science, Council of Europe expert and author (The Closing of the Net (Polity, 2016)

Twitter: @Iptegrity


Published: 2017-12-12T09:00:00


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