miércoles, 4 de abril de 2018

The brexit digital cliff-edge

Things are beginning to get hot on Brexit. Once there is an agreement for the withdrawal of UK from the EU, it looks that the agreement on the future partnership is extremely far away.  There is a particular uncertainty on which will be the digital relationship between both parts. Furthermore, the British Prime Minister has explicitly discarded any belonging of UK to the Digital Single Market. Contrary to her ambiguity in other areas as financial services, she has proclaimed that "the UK will not be part of the EU’s Digital Single Market, which will continue to develop after our withdrawal from the EU".

As a part of its preparedness actions for a worst case scenario, the EU has began to publish a collection of notices to stakeholders which briefly described what would be the situation in some economic sectors unless some kind of agreement is achieved. One of this notices described the implications for e-commerce due to the fact that the Directive 2000/31/EC (Directive on electronic commerce) will no longer apply to UK. As a consequence, the country-of-origin principle will cease to be applicable to the e-commerce sites established in UK and companies established in the UK providing information society services into the EU will fall under the jurisdiction of each individual EU-27 Member State, and not under UK law.

One of the UK contradictions is the aspiration to stay apart from the DSM but maintain a privileged relationship regarding data flows. In the same speech Ms. May discarded being part in the future of the DSM, she asked  for something"more than just an adequacy arrangement" and she underlined that she wanted "to see an appropriate ongoing role for the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office".  However, the EU notice to stakeholders on the rules of data protection after UK withdrawal reminds that Britain will not be different to other third party after Brexit. What is the same, it is a warning to UK that cherry-picking will not be an option neither in the digital arena.

Among the main achievements of the DSM is the abolition of roaming charges. It is quite curious the lack of mention in Ms. May´s speeches to this topic when each when the issue is continually on the table. At the moment, it looks that  UK Mobile Network Operators will not reinstate roaming charges but it is unclear what the EU operators will do. Even more hopeless is expecting a bilateral abolition of roaming charges to be included in the Future Relationship agreement as this issue is not usually part of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).

It is also unclear the future of transfrontier broadcasting, as Ms. May reminded in her recent speech. Again the biggest difficulty is the lack of tradition on including the issue in FTAs. The large base of TV channels which are seen in the EU and established in UK needs also clarity on this issue.

Data flows, e-commerce, roaming and audiovisual services define the more visible elements of the digital cliff-edge. Certainly, the lack of agreement of these issuer would change completely our lives.

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