Joel Casement | 16 November 2018
You may not have heard of the “Fifth Freedom”, the EU’s attempt to get control of our data. Despite all the difficulties, it is another reason we must get out of the EU as soon as possible
The Fifth Freedom? This is the only addition to the original Four Freedoms spelled out in the Treaty of Rome of 1957. Surely a momentous moment for the EU? Yet beyond the dimly lit corridors of Brussels, very few have heard of this significant addition to the historic Freedoms of Europe.
The EU Fifth Freedom will allow the free movement of business data across Europe. This sounds innocent enough, but there is far more to this than meets the eye. There was much hype surrounding the announcement of the Fifth Freedom on 4th October, first brought to our attention by Facts4EU, as this new Freedom has constantly been welcomed by its principle architect, Swedish EPP MEP, Anna Maria Corazza Bildt.
However, when it was ratified by the European Council on 7th November, for some inexplicable reason, every reference to a Fifth Freedom was dropped. This is very strange and would lead anyone to think there might be a deliberate reason for this.
The Fifth Freedom builds significantly on from the General Data Protection Agency Regulation Act (GDPR), which was adopted on 14th April 2016, and became enforceable on 25th May 2018. This is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union and the European Economic Area. It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU and EEA areas. As it’s a regulation and not a directive, it does not require national governments to pass any enabling legislation, however, it is directly binding and applicable throughout all EU Member States.
Officially, GDPR aims primarily to give control to individuals over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business, unifying the regulation within the EU. However, without a set definition of what constitutes personal data, the introduction of this Fifth Freedom – for the free movement of business data across Europe – it could enhance the reach of the EU into personal data and lives, without any regulatory mechanism to keep it in check.
This is the main danger of the EU Fifth Freedom; the potential of invasion into personal data without formal scrutiny or consent.
Within the official European Council document, there is one clause which indicates the invasive potential of the Fifth Freedom. It says: “Member States may neither restrict nor prohibit the movement of personal data within the Union.”
Thus, our private data will be strewn across Europe, unless we leave the EU. If, heaven forbid, we don’t leave, this adds to the danger of personal data being hacked as part of a cyberattack. The more we are interlinked, the more accessible we all are. With the safeguards of national state cyber defences, each nation’s data is protected, but under one single umbrella like the Fifth Freedom, we are tied together when the defences are breached.
Now, the most important question — is the UK signed up to the EU Fifth Freedom? Answer – no. The UK is leaving the EU at the end of March 2019. The UK’s access to the British Data Protection Act 2018, which contains equivalent regulations and protections, ensures we are safeguarded.
Although much of the detail on the actual movement of business data will only be revealed after we leave the European Union, it’s important to know we will not be signed up to the Fifth Freedom of the European Union as long as we Leave.
However, this gives even greater impetus for a quick, clean and comprehensive exit from the European Union. The Fifth Freedom will pass into EU Law and we must ensure we have our own data protection laws and digital data protection mechanisms for our future after Brexit.
The EU’s Fifth Freedom will pervade the nations of Europe and the data of its citizens. It highlights why now is the best time to be leaving the EU before many other laws, rules and regulations are introduced by the EU in its march towards a federal Super-state.
If Remainers had their way, we would remain within the EU and would soon be subservient to this new Fifth Freedom. Even a delay to our exit will threaten this becoming a reality. We must release ourselves from the EU’s groping digital hands to fend off the full grasp of an omniscient Big Brother EU.
On 7th November Michel Barnier added to the chorus of the Remainers by saying the UK could re-join the EU some day: “if it changes its red lines”. We must ensure the privacy of own citizens’ data. This is one of our red lines — and this line will not be changed or crossed.
Never has it been more important or obvious to distance ourselves from the Superstate-building institutions of the EU.
When we Get Britain Out of the EU we will become an independent sovereign nation with full control over our laws, our economy and our data. Most importantly for us — the people — is the fact we shall return to being a fully representative democracy. The laws we want will be made by us and not the EU.
We will be in control of who we share our data with. We can take back control of many more things, and can ensure our personal and business data never has the chance to fall into the hands of unelected officials in Brussels. This will be yet another victory for the result of the Great British Public’s referendum, when the majority chose to Leave the EU on June 23rd 2016.
Joel Casement is a Research Executive at the cross party, grassroots campaign Get Britain Out