The European Commission released a statement detailing the implications of the transition between the EU and UK.
As the UK comes to the end of its transitory period from the EU to the end of this year, the European Commission has released communication assessing the country’s readiness for separation from the region. The withdrawal agreement which was entered into on February 1st, 2020 secured the UK’s departure, and stated that the laws of the Union would continue to apply until the end of the transition period ending on December 31st, 2020. The UK continues to participate in Union programmes, the EU’s single market and Customs Union and to abide by Union policies and any international agreements which include the EU. All of this is due to change come January 1st, 2021 when the transition period has ended and the Withdrawal Agreement comes into effect. The transition period therefore serves as a period of continuity to ensure readiness for the implementation of all necessary measures and arrangements and to facilitate negotiation of a new partnership between the EU and the UK by January 1st, 2021.
Negotiations pick up momentum this summer as the EU and the UK seek to reach an agreement on a future partnership before the January 1st 20201 implementation date.
While negotiations have been slow in moving during the earlier part of this year, as of June they have picked up, as the UK’s government has made a decision not to extend the transition period. The aim is to reach an agreement on an ambitious partnership covering all areas agreed with the United Kingdom in the Political Declaration by the end of 2020. The resulting agreement would create a relationship very different from the current UK participation in the EU single market and Customs Union, and in the VAT and excise duty area. It is expected that there will be resulting barriers to trade in goods and services and to cross-border mobility and exchanges. All this, compounded by the pressure that businesses are already under due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are expected to cause some disruptions as of January 1st 2021.
Businesses are advised to revisit their existing preparedness plans which were drawn up in the event that the UK’s withdrawal from the Union happened without a withdrawal agreement. While negotiations are still underway, those preparedness plans may still be relevant for the changes at the end of the transition period.
The European Commission released information on the effects of those changes specific to various industries, and implores companies to implement actions to ensure readiness.
The European Commission communicated an outline of changes to be expected whether there is an agreement on a future partnership between the EU and the UK or not. As of 1 January 2021, the transition period allowing for the temporary participation of the United Kingdom in the EU Single Market and Customs Union will end, thereby putting a stop to the free movement of persons, goods and services. As a result there will be several automatic changes
The European Commission, since March 2020, has been publishing notices of readiness specific to various industries. To date, there are 59 notices spanning a wide range of industries, and this list will be updated on a regular basis as new notices become available. The Commission calls on all national and European consumer, business and trade associations to ensure that their members are fully aware of the expected changes. The changes being implemented as of January 1st 2020 will be automatic, far reaching and unavoidable. Both logistical and legal changes are to be expected, the effects of which should not be underestimated. Ultimately, businesses still need to undergo their own risk assessments and implement actions to ensure their own readiness.
What does this mean for data protection?
As we published in our blog in January, the ICO released an statement on the implications of Brexit on data protection, where they provided some guidance on this matter. That is:
During the transition period
- The GDPR continues to apply in the UK.
- There is no need for a European representative.
- ICO GDPR guidance is still relevant.
- Transfers of data from the UK to the EU and from the EU to the UK are not restricted.
After the transition period
- The GDPR will be brought into UK law as the ‘UK GDPR’ but the UK will have the independence to keep the framework under review.
- A European representative may be necessary from the end of the transition period.
- The ICO will not be the regulator for any European-specific activities caught by the EU version of the GDPR.
- The DPA 2018 will continue to apply.
- The ICO will remain the independent supervisory body regarding the UK’s data protection legislation.
- Data transfers between the UK and the EU may be restricted and adequate safeguards may be necessary.