EU’s Digital Single Market to Go Forward ‘With or Without’ UK

The European Union’s “Digital Single Market” will go forward with or without the United Kingdom, a European Commission director said Monday.

The Digital Single Market is an attempt by the European Commission to simplify the European Union’s diverse digital market. Its goal is to break down regulatory walls and bring 28 digital markets into a single one. U.S. businesses are generally supportive of this effort.

The United Kingdom’s unprecedented vote to withdraw from the European Union last week has posed a number of questions among global tech firms about Brexit’s impact on the industry. There have been concerns, for example, that the forthcoming privacy shield that allows data sharing between the continents will be impeded.

EU and U.S. officials said Monday that they don’t think the privacy shield will be impacted by Brexit.

The digital single market also will go forward, said said Roberto Viola, director general of the European Commission’s DG CONNECT, at a Computer & Communications Industry Association event Monday.

“The digital single market project of the European Union, without or without the U.K., goes ahead and remains one of the most important priorities of Europe in the years to come,” he said.

Some officials have floated the idea that the U.K. still could be a part of the Digital Single Market without being a member of the EU. But some EU leaders, including German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, have tamped down that possibility.

Sitting with other U.S. officials at the CCIA event, Viola also discussed ongoing plans for a new privacy shield that would provide safeguards for companies transferring data between the U.S. and the EU.

The privacy shield, set to be voted on July 4, comes after a European court struck down the “Safe Harbor” pact in October, a 15-year-old program for companies to freely exchange information across the Atlantic.

The CCIA, which advocates for tech companies like Google and Facebook, has endorsed the passage the new privacy shield. EU and U.S. officials have been negotiating the terms of the new data sharing agreement for most of the year.

Alan Davidson, the Department of Commerce’s Director of Digital Economy, said he is hopeful that the privacy shield passes. “It represents a significant achievement for consumers in terms of privacy, but also for individuals and businesses by eliminating the costly uncertainties that is facing them now,” Davidson said at the event. “We worked hard so our new framework ensures those privacy protections that EU legal system requires.”

Christian Borrgreen, CCIA’s Director of International Policy in Brussels echoed that sentiment in a separate interview with Morning Consult. “The expectation is that they will agree on the privacy shield July 4,” he said.

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