How data is managed and shared illustrates even more clearly than geopolitics and trade the catastrophic loss of control that Brexit has brought. If we were still a full and engaged Member State, we would not only be benefiting from a disproportionate share of research funding in the data field but playing a formative role in shaping future EU regulation. Through the “Brussels effect” we would in turn be shaping regulation across the world – truly punching above our weight.
The desperate search for the unicorn of a Brexit dividend imposes its own logic, however. The former Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden ominously revived (during the fall of Kabul) long-standing plans to introduce a new data regime for “global Britain.” With the passage of the Data Protection Act in 2018 the UK incorporated the GDPR lock, stock and barrel into British law. This means that for data purposes the UK is effectively a member of the European Economic Area, critically protecting the UK data sector for now. Dowden was seeking to explore new options and these will be familiar to all students of Brexit: the pointless and the catastrophic. His successor, Nadine Dorries, may prove equally self-harming.
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