Welcome

BEERG on BrexitWelcome to the BEERG Brexit Blog. Here you will find my personal thoughts and observations not just on how Brexit will negatively impact the business sector in the UK, Ireland and across Europe, but how it will change the business, political and economic landscape for decades to come.

I am the founder and Executive Director of BEERG, a network of HR professionals working across Europe. All blogposts here are written by me, Tom Hayes, unless stated otherwise. Feel free to read, share and comment… unnamed

Brexit, Data transfers, GDPR, Michel Barnier, Negotiating

Saying things in such a way that make a deal impossible

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When I started to write this piece yesterday, I opened it with the following paragraph:

As I write this on Saturday, October 17, I have no idea whether there will be a trade deal between the EU and the UK. I do not know if talks between the two on such a deal are genuinely over. It is not clear if the discussions between the two lead negotiators, Frost and Barnier, scheduled for London this week, will actually go ahead or remain cancelled, after Frost told Barnier on Friday night not to bother turning up unless he had a new offer to make to the UK.

The next morning, Sunday, I read Michael Gove’s article in the Sunday Times. In it Gove accuses the European Union of trying to ‘tie our hands indefinitely’ as he claims the UK has ‘no choice’ but to prepare for a no trade deal split from the bloc at the end of the year.

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Boris Johnson, Brexit, Customs Union, Negotiating, Single Market, Trade Deals

UK is the EU’s “sovereign equal” just as Malta is the “sovereign equal” of the USA

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In a BBC interview last Friday, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson MP, said:

“They’ve done a deal with Canada – long way away – of a kind that we want, why shouldn’t they do it with us, we’re so near, we’ve been members for 45 years.”

Think about those comments. Then think about them again.

When Johnson said, “we’re so near” I am not sure if that means that the UK and the EU are “so near” geographically, or whether a deal is “so near”. But then, with Johnson you are never sure what he means, or whether he knows what he means himself. He is the Dali of British politics, a gushing stream of consciousness. Without Dali’s talent.

What Johnson appears to be saying is that he, the UK, wants the same deal with the EU as a country a long way away from the EU, and that has never been a member of the EU. And he wants that deal because he, the UK, is “so near” the EU and has been a member for “45 years”. The comments, like much of what Johnson says, defy logic.

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Boris Johnson, Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Customs Union, Irish border, Negotiating, Northern Ireland, Single Market

International Law… what’s that, says the dead cat

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Last week was some Brexit week, a week in which the UK government introduced legislation, the internal market bill, which a government minister admitted in the Commons would break international law, but only in a “specific and limited way”.

The minister, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis MP, was talking about the powers the government proposed to take which would allow them to override provisions in the Withdrawal Act signed with the EU in 2019 when it comes to the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The UK, according to the minister, was deliberately and consciously going to break an international treaty that it had only recently signed.

The international treaty, the Withdrawal Agreement, provides that Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, will remain in the EU’s customs union and single market for goods to avoid rebuilding a hard border on the island of Ireland between Northern Ireland and Ireland, a continuing member of the EU.

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Boris Johnson, Brexit, British Government, Customs Union, Data Protection, Data transfers, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Single Market, Trade Deals

A “No-Deal” Brexit looms ever closer

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On January 1, 2021, whether there is a deal between the UK and the EU on future trading relations or not, significant new barriers to doing business between the UK and the EU will come into existence. There is no possible agreement between the UK and the EU that can eliminate these new barriers and borders because of the UK’s decision to leave the EU’s single market and customs unions.

At best, an agreement will provide for tariff free and quota free trade in goods between the two. But such an agreement would not eliminate the need for paperwork and customs checks, to certify such things as “rules of origin” – where the goods in question, and the components in them, were actually made. Indeed, it has been estimated that UK business will need to recruit at least 50,000 customs agents just to handle the additional paperwork involved in the export of goods.

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Boris Johnson, Brexit, British Government, Data transfers, Michel Barnier

Brexit No Deal still looks likely

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A week or so ago, I came across this tweet from Simon Fraser, whose Twitter profile says: “Managing Partner Flint Global. Vice Chair Chatham House. Was Perm Sec UK Foreign Office & Business Dept & Chief of Staff EU Trade Commissioner.” A person, therefore, of some considerable substance and experience.

A good moment, after downbeat official comment on the latest #Brexit talks, to remind ourselves just how extraordinary a failure of successive governments it will be if UK leaves EU after four and a half years of negotiation with no agreement on the future relationship.

Which prompts the question: was an agreement ever possible? Or was Brexit always framed in such a way that for Brexiteers “no deal” was always the only “true Brexit”?

But before seeking to answer this question, let’s look at where we are now, following another couple of weeks of inconclusive talks between the EU and the UK. To put it as its simplest, the July intensive rounds of talks, triggered by Boris Johnson’s demand to “put a tiger in the tank, turned out to be little more than dinner in Brussels one week, in London the next.

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Brexit, Data Protection, Data transfers, GDPR

The Schrems II decision and Brexit

 

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The Schrems II judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) makes the transfer of personal data to the US from the EU close to legally impossible. The Court has struck down Privacy Shield as incapable of providing sufficient protection for the personal data of EU citizens transferred to the US and has severely constrained the use of Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) as an alternative way of doing so.

The Court’s judgement is rooted in the belief that there is a significant disconnect between the EU’s emphasis on data privacy as a fundamental right, and the US’s stress on the national security imperative for its intelligence agencies to be able to access data transferred to the US. (See here for a useful summary of the background to the case).

The bottom line takeaway from the CJEU’s decision is that, no matter what procedure is used, it is illegal to transfer the personal data of EU citizens to third countries if that data cannot be protected to the standards that the EU demands when it arrives in that country.

The CJEU, in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the wording of the GDPR, has prioritised data privacy over economic considerations. Whether an appropriate balance has been struck is for European politicians to decide.

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