Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Brexit Needed Your Fully Informed Consent

In 2016, the Swiss parliament realised the people had made a terrible mistake in a narrow, binding 2014 vote to impose quotas on EU workers.

While Switzerland is not an EU member, it's the EU's third largest trading partner after the USA and China - so more important than the UK on its own - and has a free movement agreement for all EU citizens, meaning EU citizens can live and work there.

The EU was not intimidated by the Swiss vote in 2014. The EU (including the UK, even after the Brexit vote) continued to insist that any attempt to restrict free movement of EU citizens would automatically exclude Switzerland from the EU single market. Imposing quotas would end all of Switzerland's 120 trade deals with individual EU members and result in exclusion from the EU’s chemical regulation, research and education programmes.

So the Swiss parliament decided not to implement the quotas on EU workers. Voters had not been informed of all these consequences of voting to impose the restrictions. Conservative politicians were outraged, but that was felt to be a price worth paying to protect the Swiss economy.

UK citizens are already personally familiar with the need for consent - especially where that is the basis for processing their personal data under the Data Protection Act 1998. Indeed, the UK government was instrumental in developing the new, more stringent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and has committed to retain it post-Brexit

Where consent is relied upon for the processing of personal data, it must be a "freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject's wishes... a statement or ... clear affirmative action [which] signifies agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her."

The UK's own EU referendum was a non-binding vote and a simple Yes or No to leaving the EU.  No one would argue that any voters were really "informed" as to the consequences of Brexit. Only a few of those consequences are clear 18 months later.  Many people are very angry that they were misled by Leave campaigners who claimed that leaving the EU would be easy, that it would cost nothing, that there would be new trade deals by now and the UK would be able to spend its EU contributions on the NHS instead.

But it is clear that the EU does not feel the need to compromise with the UK - after all it didn't need to for Switzerland.

On this basis, the non-binding referendum vote to leave the EU was not fully informed and Parliament should now now decline to proceed with it. The Article 50 notice to leave the EU can and should be withdrawn.

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