Big Tech may face post-Brexit UK regulatory action on cookies, Denham suggests – MLex

  • Google, Facebook and other Big Tech companies relying on tracking cookies may see UK regulatory action after the end of the Brexit transition period in six weeks, the head of country’s data-protection watchdog has suggested.
  • In an apparent reference to the EU’s 2002 e-privacy directive, amended in 2009 to set rules on how websites must seek consent from users before cookies can be downloaded, UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham told an online conference that “those regulations need to be looked at for their impact and their effectiveness.”
  • EU governments are debating a revision to the rules and how to handle “cookie walls” — popup windows that block access to websites unless a user gives consent to advertising cookies. EU diplomats are holding a crucial meeting today to decide whether to agree on the latest draft, which has been strongly opposed by publishers and telecom groups (see here).
  • While she acknowledged that the Irish Data Protection Commission is the lead authority for the European businesses of many global tech companies — including Google, Twitter, Facebook — and that “there are many investigations under way, in the adtech realm, for example,” she signaled that the ICO might want to take a more active stance after Brexit.
  • The UK’s departure from the EU could potentially open up the path for the ICO to make some changes to privacy rules. Britain will be free to diverge from EU laws as it translates the GDPR into a new national mechanism, dubbed the “UK GDPR.” Any major changes would, however, harm the UK’s prospects of securing and maintaining a data-adequacy decision necessary for an interrupted flow of data to and from EU countries. A senior UK official conceded last month that talks on this subject “have gone a bit more slowly than we thought” (see more).
  • The ICO has previously voiced concern about the massive collection and sharing of sensitive personal data across the adtech supply chain via “real-time bidding,” or RTB, systems. In the most recent progress report from June 2019, the ICO said it identified “systemic concerns about the level of compliance” with privacy laws in the RTB industry.

Financial-services equivalence for EU doesn’t drain UK’s negotiating power, Treasury official says – MLex

  • News that EU financial-services companies will benefit from unilateral equivalence decisions by the UK finance ministry does not mean London’s negotiating power on Brexit has been damaged, a senior finance ministry official insisted to lawmakers today. Equivalence should not be viewed as a political “bargaining chip,” Charles Roxburgh argued.
  • “We think equivalence should be taken as an outcomes-based process, looking at the case on the merits, and it should not be a political bargaining chip. It should be a technical process where we take decisions that are in our interest,” he added. The ball is now in the EU’s court to make its own decision on whether to grant any access provisions to the UK, Roxburgh noted. But the finance industry is realistic about the possibility of that happening, he said, adding that the sector has “from pretty much the day after the referendum been preparing for the possibility that we will not have equivalence.”
  • Lawmakers today questioned whether the introduction of rulemaking by regulators, such as the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority, on the basis of policy priorities to be set by ministers, would reduce the independence of those financial supervisors.
  • The framework does not compromise the independence of the BOE or FCA, Roxburgh answered, nor is the Treasury “looking for more control” of the policymakers. He defended the planned approach over concerns that ministers could push for regulators to prioritize, for example, the competitiveness of the finance sector (see here) which has led to fears of laxer regulation. “Competitiveness is not a code for lower regulatory standards,” he said.

EU summit on 19 November seen as deadline for draft Brexit deal – Guardian

  • A summit of EU leaders on 19 November is now viewed in Brussels as the final deadline for a draft Brexit deal, with negotiations on Britain’s future trade and security relationship with the bloc set to go to the wire.
  • Negotiators working in London had hoped to be able to pass on a deal to MEPs for scrutiny by 18 November to allow time for parliamentary ratification but the talks remain difficult, according to sources on both sides. Next Thursday’s video conference summit of the 27 heads of state and government, arranged to discuss the latest developments in the coronavirus pandemic, is being seen as a key moment in the Brexit saga.
  • A final arbitration session between Boris Johnson and the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, is also a possibility should the negotiators move closer to each other’s positions on the outstanding issues. The thorniest problems to resolve remain the level of access to UK waters provided to EU fishing fleets, how to maintain fair competition rules for business – including rules on domestic subsidies – and the mechanism in the final treaty for resolving future disputes.
  • UK sources have complained that Brussels has as yet failed to show enough “realism” about the scale of the change to the level of fishing opportunities the EU member states’ fleet will have in Britain’s exclusive economic zone from next year.
  • On ensuring a “level playing field” for businesses in the UK and the EU, progress is being made on how the two sides’ domestic subsidy regimes would operate but difficulties remain in establishing a mechanism whereby a baseline of environmental, labour and social standards would develop in tandem for both sides.
  • Downing Street has insisted the UK needs to be able to diverge its rulebook, while the EU has said it will not grant a “zero tariff, zero quota” deal if British companies are not operating under rules that are at least equivalent to those set by Brussels.
  • The sliding Brexit timeline will be a cause for concern in the European parliament, where MEPs had insisted they would need to have the agreement in front of them by next Monday to start the ratification process.
  • It was hoped that the parliament would vote on the deal on 16 December. Sources in the European parliament said an extraordinary sitting of the chamber may need to be arranged for 28 December – three days before the end of the transition period when the UK leaves the single market and customs union.
  • Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said he believed a deal would be struck despite the differences between the two sides.

UK struggling to conclude Canada trade deal, says Trudeau – FT

  • Canada’s prime minister, has claimed that Britain is struggling to conclude a trade deal with his country before the Brexit transition ends on January 1 because it does not have “the bandwidth”. Mr Trudeau said Canada was highly experienced at striking trade deals and was ready to conclude an agreement with the UK, rolling over the terms of the existing EU-Canada deal when the transition period ends.
  • “The UK hasn’t had to negotiate trade deals in the past few decades,” Mr Trudeau told the Financial Times. “So there is an issue of not really having the bandwidth within government to move forward on this.” Liz Truss, Britain’s international trade secretary, denies that Britain does not have enough capacity or trade negotiators to do a deal, and her allies say she hopes to get an agreement across the line by January 1.
  • Britain is Canada’s fifth biggest trading partner after the US, China, Mexico and Japan, with over US$20bn of bilateral trade in 2017. Securing a deal before January 1 is important for both countries.
  • Mr Trudeau said he offered some of his country’s expertise to Britain, which had not had to negotiate any trade deals since it became a member of the EU in 1973 because Brussels ran commercial policy.
  • “The core elements of the deal are agreed, there’s just a few things to iron out,” said an aide to Ms Truss. “We’ve made some very reasonable offers to the Canadians. “The ball is in their court probably more than it is in ours. A deal is there to be done. Bandwidth isn’t an issue at all.”

Haulage bosses slam UK government for failure to produce Brexit guide – FT

  • The UK’s haulage and logistics groups have lambasted the government for failing to produce a handbook to help truck drivers prepare for new border controls that will come into force from January 1. With less than 35 working days until a new EU-UK trade regime comes into force, officials at the Department for Transport are rushing to rewrite early drafts of a handbook that were rejected as “unusable”.
  • Elizabeth de Jong, the policy director of Logistics UK, which represents the freight industry, told MPs on Wednesday the original version was “not fit for purpose” since it failed to answer the basic question “what documentation and checks do I need for my journey?”
  • A new draft is due on November 18 and the final version is not expected to be delivered until December 7 — less than four weeks before the end of the transition period. It will need to be translated into multiple languages, since 80 per cent of cross-channel lorry journeys are made by EU drivers.
  • An early draft version of the handbook seen by the Financial Times consists of 22 pages of at times densely worded prose that haulage groups have said were completely unsuited to apprising lorry drivers of their new responsibilities.
  • The DfT said that the handbook was “only one part” of a package of measures to guide hauliers and would be launched alongside 45 new information sites later this month. “We are progressing work on the handbook at pace,” a spokesperson added.