Reed Smith Client Alerts

As the Article 50 clock continues to tick down and the UK stands on the edge of a potential no-deal Brexit following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move at the end of August to prorogue Parliament for almost a month in the run-up to 31 October, there has been much speculation as to the impact on the laws of the UK and its interactions with EU member states. Should there be a no-deal Brexit, audiovisual media services established in the UK will no longer be licensed in a qualifying ‘country of origin’, enabling them to transmit across the EU (although they may at least partially rely on the fact that the UK is a signatory to the European Convention on Transfrontier Television for linear distribution in certain member states). Equally, the implications of the ending of freedom of movement on 31 October 2019 should there be a no-deal Brexit have also caused much consternation in the media and entertainment sector, which relies on a wide range of talent and skills.

Currently, it is unclear whether there will be a no-deal Brexit. The UK Parliament has legislated against it and there are two appeals to the Supreme Court on the legality of the Government’s advice on the prorogation of Parliament pending. However, the Prime Minister of the moment will still need to seek an extension of the Article 50 deadline from the European Commission and all the remaining 27 member states need to agree to it. Mr Johnson may also succeed in agreeing revised terms for the UK's withdrawal from the EU with the EU and passing this through Parliament; in such a case, the UK will likely remain subject to EU law for a transitional period of several years following Brexit.

It is therefore important to keep one eye firmly on new EU legislation coming down the line as part of the EU’s digital single market (DSM) strategy, announced in May 2015, comprising a number of directives and regulations aimed at improving access for customers and businesses to digital goods and services EU-wide, creating an environment of innovation and maximising the growth of the digital economy. Some directives and regulations are already in effect, such as the Portability Regulation, but many will need to be implemented within the next two years – such as the revised AVMS Directive (covered above) and the revised Cable and Satellite, or “Cabsat”, Directive (covered in a previous alert). Other directives and regulations are currently being drafted and negotiated, such as the proposed Digital Services Act.

In this two-part client alert, we provide an overview of some of the key DSM strategy directives and regulations which the UK may well need to transpose, depending on the outcome of the Brexit process. Part 2 covers the sister Digital Content Directive and Online Sale of Goods Directive, as well as the proposed Digital Services Act, which is aimed at imposing sanctions on internet giants.