The FT is reporting that the United Kingdom is working hard to demonstrate the country’s commitment to European data protection laws set to come into force, despite its likely departure from the block in 2019. In many ways, this makes sense. As in other areas, securing common principles on data—if not identical rules and regulations—could be key to helping the UK secure access to the European Union’s common market. This is particularly important since data protection involves not only traditional concepts of “privacy,” but also larger financial services and information technology practices. The absence of agreement could, as a result, lock UK-based firms out of providing digitally based services on the continent. So not surprisingly, even the UK parliament has stressed the need the abide by European data rules.

But there is, I think, one interesting risk, or at least tradeoff, to conformity, namely that embracing EU standards could complicate UK free trade aspirations with the United States.   Data protection is serious in Europe—and the issue was ruled out altogether in early TTIP talks out of (a not unreasonable) fear in Brussels that a trade accord with the United States with data provisions would end up lowering overall EU standards. Harmonizing or complying with European rules could, as a result, potentially make it difficult for the UK to make concessions on privacy in a transatlantic trade deal. Indeed, in a nightmare scenario for Britain, the UK could be forced to choose between preferential treatment by the two free trade regions, at least as pertaining to relevant data-intensive processes and industries.

Any additional insight? Let me know @ChrisbrummerDr

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