5. The consequences of Brexit for international data transfers

This guidance is provided in order to help companies, public bodies and Luxembourg associations that are transferring personal data to the United Kingdom, and which will continue such transfers. The CNPD recommends that the entities concerned should already now consider how to transfer personal data in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation.

On 29 March 2017, the United Kingdom notified the European Council of its intention to leave the European Union. On 14 November 2018, the European Commission and United Kingdom negotiators reached an agreement on the entirety of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community (hereinafter the “Withdrawal Agreement”). 

Initially, it was foreseen that in the absence of such a ratification, Union primary and secondary law should cease to apply on 30 March 2019, a deadline that was extended until 12 April 2019. On 10 April 2019, the European Council and the United Kingdom agreed to a further extension to allow for the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement. Such an extension should last only as long as necessary and, in any event, no longer than 31 October 2019.

However, following the resignation of Theresa My as Prime-Minister of the United-Kingdom, the discussions between the European Union and United Kingdom negotiators resumed in September 2019. On 17 October 2019, the negotiators reached an agreement on a revised text of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and on the necessary technical adaptations to Articles 184 and 185 of the Withdrawal Agreement, as well as an on a revised Political Declaration.

Therefore, with a view to allowing for the finalization of the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, as amended, the European Council agrees to a further extension until 31 January 2020.

In that respect, as the conditions under which the United Kingdom will leave the European Union have not been decided yet, several options remain possible. Among these, there are two possible main scenarios:

  • If the Withdrawal Agreement, as amended, is ratified before 31 January 2020, at the latest, European Union law will cease to apply to and in the United Kingdom on 31 December 2020, pursuant to Article 126 of this Agreement (except if the transition period is extended pursuant to Article 132 of the Withdrawal Agreement, as amended);
  • If the Withdrawal Agreement, as amended, or any other withdrawal agreement is not ratified before 31 January 2020, there will be no transition period and European Union law will cease to apply to and in the United Kingdom as of 1 February 2020 (or as of any later date in accordance with Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union). This is referred to as the "no deal" or "cliff-edge" scenario.
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