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The Brexit Whitepaper: What Does it Mean for Marketers?



Chris Combemale, CEO of the DMA Group, deciphers some of the most important parts of Theresa May’s proposed plans

The Brexit Whitepaper: What Does it Mean for Marketers?
NB: The Brexit whitepaper is not set in its current state and what it outlays could be subject to change in the future. 

The UK government position continues to be greatly disputed within both the conservative and labour parties with no overall consensus on the way forward in negotiations with the EU. As I write it is unclear of the government’s proposed negotiation position will receive parliamentary support. MPs advocating for a ‘no deal’ Brexit are increasing at the same time as calls for a new referendum are also increasing.

While there is widespread disagreement on the overall position, there is greater unity around key issues that concerns marketers, especially on the movement of data across borders following Brexit. Most MPs on both side of the debate are supportive of adequacy plus and an ongoing role for the ICO on the European Data Protection Board. There is much less consensus around ensuring UK has access to the right level of talent and other aspects of the Digital Single Market.

Section 3.2: Data protection

This section of the paper advocates for continued exchange of personal data and the current protections that come with this. Highlighting the potential for an adequacy agreement, the UK will seek to have the deepest relationship with data – akin to the one we have now.

Regulatory alignment would be sought.

This would include cooperation of security services.  

What this means: 
This level of cooperation is exactly what the DMA and other industry partners have been pushing for. It is absolutely essential that we get data alignment in the final deal or a huge number of business will face bureaucratic barriers and reduced access to markets. 

The security services’ cooperation is a vital component of this, because current UK anti-terrorist surveillance practices could prevent the EU from granting the UK adequacy status as a third country. An agreement on the continued cooperation of the security services likely eliminates this problem

Section 3.2.2: Regulatory cooperation

This section expands on the point about regulatory alignment. The white paper recognises that the ICO has played a large part in the creation of EU data laws thus far and that there should be a continuing role going forward.

What this means: 
Regulatory cooperation can mean a number of things. Ideally, the ICO would have a full voting seat on the European Data Protection Board. The ICO has been pivotal in the interpretation and implementation of data protection law in Europe, so it is in the European’s interests to have us keep a similar role in regulation to the one we have now.

The ICO is one of the best-resourced regulators in the EU and aside from Ireland the only native English speaking country, the lingua franca of the EU, and so a valuable asset.

If the ICO does maintain its current positions, UK industry interests will be represented at the level they are today. The UK would continue to have a great deal of influence on the interpretation and implementation data protection legislation such as GDPR.

Section 1.5: Digital

This section affirms the position that the UK will not be a part of the Digital Single Market. Nonetheless, it highlights the need for “regulatory flexibility, to ensure the UK can respond nimbly to new developments”.

The paper proposes an EU-UK relationship that capitalises on the growth of digital technologies globally by continuing to adjoin “digital trade and e-commerce; telecommunications and digital infrastructure; digital technology; and broadcasting”.

What this means: 
This goes hand-in-hand with the stance on the free flow of data. This will allow continued relationships with European partners on digital expansion and the ability to trade goods and services.

Section 1.5.1: Digital trade and e-commerce

Echoing much of what has come before, this section continues to argue for the removal and prevention of barriers to the flow of data across borders. It supports the “free, open and secure internet” and encourages continued UK-EU innovation on developing secure partnerships.

What this means: 
Again, this is a positive position and one which the DMA has voiced to parliament and government before. Agreeing on these terms with the EU will assure marketers that they can work with EU partners in the knowledge that secure international processes will protect their data.

Section 1.5.2: Telecommunications and digital infrastructure

This section states the importance of maintaining current agreements on infrastructure in telecoms and the internet.

What this means: 
Many AI inventions rely on the ability to cross borders seamlessly through extensive digital and telecommunications networks. This will allow UK businesses to continue to lead the way in innovating and marketing AI products and services that can be bought and used the world over. Another win.

Section 1.5.3: Digital technology

Just as the UK needs access to EU markets for the development of AI and other digital technologies, the EU as a whole needs to cooperate with the world to ensure that tariff barriers are removed where mutual benefit is clear. AI and digital technology is one of these areas. The paper argues that UK should continue to work with the EU in this regard – through regulatory alignment and shared research – so that both can gain from shared innovation and action.

The report cites the example of the European AI Alliance, which has been commissioned to draft ethical guidelines on AI design and use by the end of 2018.

What this means: 
A huge number of tech companies across Europe are working to tackle problems in the world, big and small. Aligned visions and working structures will allow cooperation and collaboration on important developments going forward. Along with the ability to share data, exploring new models for regulatory cooperation will positively impact UK businesses in marketing and beyond.

Section 1.4.1: Free movement of people

This section is emphatic in its claim that the free movement of people will end. To an extent, it kicks this issue into the long grass by placing the onus on “future governments” to decide. Nonetheless, the paper says that the UK will “continue to attract the brightest and best.” Explaining this position in the next section, it describes a situation somewhat akin to that at present, where “skilled workers” can move between EU countries. 

What this means: 
While there are some limitations, the UK appears not to be closing the door on the movement of people who would be working in the marketing industry. It seems UK marketing sector will still be able to cooperate fully with European partners and bring across talent as and when needed. The European marketing industry is part of the largest collective economy in the world, and having access to businesses and clients will serve the UK marketing industry to no end. 

Chris Combemale is CEO of the DMA Group
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