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EU is failing to deliver Digital Single Market, says techUK

EU is building more barriers, when it should be working on moving restrictions.

By Ellie Burns

As part of its Digital Single Market strategy, the European Commission has today proposed policy and legal solutions to ‘unleash’ the EU’s data economy. The proposed policy was in response to the Commission’s view that the EU is not currently making the most of its data potential.

The policy and legal solutions seek to address the unjustified restrictions to the free movement of data across borders, with the Commission also launching two public consultations and a debate with Member States and stakeholders to define the next steps.

“Data should be able to flow freely between locations, across borders and within a single data space,” said Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market.

“In Europe, data flow and data access are often held up by localisation rules or other technical and legal barriers. If we want our data economy to produce growth and jobs, data needs to be used. But to be used, it also needs to be available and analysed. We need a coordinated and pan-European approach to make the most of data opportunities, building on strong EU rules to protect personal data and privacy.”

The EU’s proposals, however, have been met with criticism, with techUK voicing concern that the proposals create more barriers and ‘fall a long way short’ of the ambition of the Digital Single Market.

The trade body organisation, which represents tech in the UK, was scathing in its response to the EU’s plans, stating that the proposed ‘Free Flow of Data Initiative’ does little to actually free up data flows across Europe.

TechUK points to the fact that the Commission has taken little action to end ‘inappropriate, misplaced and unjustified data localisation restrictions that prevent businesses from deploying more cost effective data infrastructures across Europe.’ Bolstering this argument, the trade body highlighted the Commission’s own Impact Assessment which concluded that the removal of these restrictions would add €8 billion to the European economy every year.

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“European politicians keep asking why Europe doesn’t have a major competitor to the big global internet companies and then they put more barriers in the way to that ever happening” said Antony Walker, deputy CEO techUK.

“European Member States need to think hard about whether the proposals released today will help then grow their digital economies.  Unfortunately, Brexit won’t shield UK businesses from the negative impact of these proposals. All businesses exporting goods into the EU post-Brexit will need to be compliant.”

Stating clearly that the ‘European Commission has repeatedly failed to present convincing evidence of a market problem that needs to be fixed’, techUK further blasted the Commission’s one size fits all regulation and the fact that many data-driven businesses are worried that the proposals will actually stunt Europe’s digital ambitions.

“EU Member States need to wake up to the fact that the European Commission is getting the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy  wrong and consider the impact of these proposals, and others such as the Copyright proposals and the proposed E-Privacy Regulation on their ambitions to grow their economies in a digital ag,” said Mr Walker.

“Unfortunately the DSM has effectively been an exercise in levelling up regulation rather than in re-thinking what effective and appropriate regulation should look like in a digital age.  This is a missed opportunity for Europe.”




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