In a statement last night, the European Council announced that the UK’s two-year withdrawal period, due to expire on 29 March 2019, would be extended until 22 May 2019, but only if the UK Parliament approves the the withdrawal agreement reached by the two sides’ negotiating teams before the end of next week.
If within that time the UK Parliament does not vote through the agreement, which it has already rejected twice, the extension will only apply until 12 April 2019.
Thus, if there continues to be no majority in the UK’s House of Commons for the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the UK and the EU are unable to reach an alternative arrangement by 12 April, it appears the UK will leave the European Union on that date with no agreement in place.
Such a "no-deal" departure would have significant consequences in multiple commercial areas for businesses involved in trade between the EU and the UK.
As regards data protection, the immediate consequence would be that Britain would become a "third country", not recognised by a European Commission "Adequacy Decision". This would mean that organisations transferring personal data (of clients, prospects, employees, etc.) from the EU to the UK would find themselves in breach of the prohibition on data transfers to third countries under GDPR article 44.
In such circumstances, the actors involved would need to implement appropriate safeguards pursuant to GDPR Article 46 in order to enable continued legal EU to UK data flows. In practice, given the short timeframes involved, this is likely to mean the signature of the European Commission’s standard data protection clauses between the European entity sending the data and the UK entity receiving it.
Altij's data protection team would be pleased to help you put the appropriate measures in place and to assist you with any other Brexit-related questions as regards doing business in France.
Nicholas Cullen is a dual-qualified Solicitor of England and Wales and Avocat in France. For more information about our GDPR offer please get in touch via our contact form.