UK industry chiefs call for ‘precious’ Brexit data deal

brexit newAdvertising, marketing and technology industry bodies – including the DMA, the Advertising Association and TechUK – have joined forces with the CBI and nearly 70 other professional organisations calling for politicians on both sides of the Brexit talks to carve a path towards a deal.

The trade bodies, which represent more than 190,000 businesses and over 7 million employees, cover a huge range of sectors from automotive to aviation, chemicals to creative industries, and farming and food to pharmaceuticals. But they are united in one thing: securing a quick Brexit agreement matters greatly for jobs and livelihoods.

While Boris Johnson’s “oven ready” deal appears to be closer to the kitchen bin than any cooking appliance, the alliance of trade bodies insist that clarity will “turbo-charge” business preparations and increase confidence in the UK as a place to invest. Crucially, it will also help ease the sustainable implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, they say.

The move follows last week’s intervention by leading European business groups from France, Germany and Italy, calling for “a solution which ensures smooth trading conditions”.

The joint statement reads: “Now is the time for historic political leadership. With compromise and tenacity, a deal can be done. Businesses call on leaders on both sides to find a route through.

“The clarity that comes with an ambitious deal will have an instant impact on firms’ efforts to prepare. It will help investment by removing the threat of tariffs and quotas. And it will catalyse confidence through enhanced customs cooperation while making a precious data agreement possible, vital for services industries which make up 80% of the UK economy.

“Businesses are doing what they can to prepare for Brexit. But firms face a hat-trick of unprecedented challenges: rebuilding from the first wave of Covid-19, dealing with the second and uncertainty over the UK’s trading relationship with the EU.

“That’s why more than three quarters of UK firms say they need a deal, quickly.

“With each day that passes, business resilience is chipped away. A swift deal is the single most effective way to support recovery in communities across Europe.

“After four years of debate, there must be a resolution. 2021 can then be a year to rebuild, rather than regret.”

One of the biggest threats to the data, marketing and tech industries if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, is that an estimated £85bn of UK exports that are reliant on exchanging data with the EU will be wiped out.

This is because, while UK firms will be able to transfer data to EU business, companies in Europe will not be able to send data to the UK as Britain will be classed as a “third country” without adequate data protection laws.

This issue was first exposed as far back as February 2016 – four months before the Brexit vote – yet still the UK is no closer to an agreement. By September 2017, the CBI was arguing that without an adequacy deal the UK’s data economy – which it estimated to be valued at £240bn – will fall “off a cliff edge”. Even then it was calling for an interim deal on data protection and data-flows.

The so-called adequacy deal would enable a seamless transition, although there are numerous hurdles to climb, not least of which is the recent claim that the UK Information Commissioner’s Office has a “dismal” record on enforcing GDPR.

Even so, DMA chief executive Chris Combemale is not giving up without a fight.

He said: “Data adequacy is vital for the UK’s continued leadership of the global data and marketing industry. Any interruption on the current free flow of data could jeopardise the estimated £85bn of UK exports that are reliant on exchanging data with the EU, which could be economically disastrous.

“The alternative – mass adoption of standard contractual clauses – is simply not viable for many businesses, as it is administratively burdensome and prone to delays. Therefore, the UK must continue to work with the EU to overcome any hurdles and ensure an adequacy agreement on data is reached.”

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