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Dean Chakravorti Writes on Britain’s Digital Advantage in Chatham House's "The World Today"

Chatham House

Published by Chatham House

As they consider the art of the deal, negotiators on both sides of the Brexit discussions must ask a central question: what are the consequences of the uncoupling for Britain and for the European Union without the UK?

If the perception is that the EU is losing a star from its line-up, British negotiators can expect to wield more leverage in setting the terms. Unfortunately, if the state of the British economy is used as a measure of star power, the picture looks bleak at the moment: growth in the UK has dropped to the bottom of the G7, with forecasts slashed even further by the IMF; inflation has spiked while overall economic performance measured by economic growth per capita, literacy, growth in wages and infrastructure investments compare unfavourably with that of key EU nations, such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

While the Brexit decision has precipitated some of this decline, the prospects for the UK going solo look even worse than previously imagined.

No wonder then that there is much anxiety among Brexit-watchers about the UK making a clean break and rejecting the ‘four freedoms’ that EU members enjoy − free movement of people, goods, capital and services. I would argue that there is a fifth freedom that negotiators ought to keep in their sights, one that may hold the key to re-balancing the terms of Brexit. This freedom has to do with the free movement of data.

Data matters because it is the fuel − and exhaust − of a critical part of the overall economy: the digital economy.

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