Goods, services, capital and people. The four freedoms of the EU’s single market are well-known (among Brussels-watchers, at least). For months, the European Commission have been mulling adding a de facto fifth: data.
Officials in Brussels have been working on plans to stop countries from demanding that companies keep data within national borders.
Now that the EU’s data protection rules are in theory uniform across the bloc, the thinking goes, where is the harm in a Spanish business storing customer data on a server in the Netherlands?
Data should be able to zip from one end of the continent to the other, like a lorry load of Swedish furniture but much faster. Doing so would boost GDP by 0.06 per cent per year: not much, but better than nothing. Plus, banning data localisation would send another message.
“The whole point of this regulation is not because we have internal barriers, but to regain the trust of third countries that we are open for business,” says Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, director of European Centre for International Political Economy. “People are underestimating the need to put in a ratchet clause, saying that we will remain open.”
But some countries are not keen. France, in particular, has pushed for Brussels not to introduce legislation, while Germany has also grumbled behind the scenes. The latest indication is that the European Commission is set to side with Berlin and Paris: rather than full-blooded legislation banning mandatory data localisation, Brussels will table a "communication" suggesting that it is less than ideal.
It is a familiar story. For all the rhetoric about the near-sacred “four freedoms” of the single market, the reality is more ragbag. While goods and capital flow well, the single market in services is still rudimentary in some sectors.
Cross-border trade in services remains low because vested interests (notably in France and Germany) have kept barriers high. Cracks are appearing in the free movement of people, too, with tightened rules on posted workers and access to benefits - again at the behest of Paris and Berlin, among others.
Adding data to the single market’s freedoms looked simple on paper, but is struggling with the same political pitfalls of its peers.
Elsewhere in Europe: Schulz runs
Bye Brussels, Hello Berlin European Parliament president Martin Schulz will return to Berlin and run for the Bundestag in 2017, opening the door to political wrestling matches in both Berlin and Brussels. Expect a nasty scrap to break out over who gets to succeed him in Parliament, along with a struggle among the other heavyweights of the SDP in Germany.
Berlusconi is back! Politically-inclined billionaires with an enormous amount of baggage are back in vogue.
Silvio Berlusconi thrust himself back into the frontline of Italian politics with an emphatic rejection of Matteo Renzi’s constitutional reforms, trying to position himself as a key power broker if Italians reject the prime minister’s plans and his government collapses.
Eastern Europe and The Donald A thorough examination of what effect Donald Trump will have on security in Eastern Europe.
Greek crisis Although a combination of Brexit, Trump and elections featuring popular far-right politicians have monopolised attention, Greece is still bubbling away in the background.
The eurozone is running out of time to secure an agreement this year on International Monetary Fund participation in Greece’s €86bn bailout amid splits over the country’s economic reforms, budget targets and debt relief.
A quiet British surrender Britain waved a white flag on extra funding for EU defences. The extra €500,000 will not make Vladimir Putin quake, but marks a significant shift argues Tony Barber in the Brussels Briefing's sister email, the Brexit Briefing.
The Brexit bill The British government gave the first indication of the costs of Brexit, with Philip Hammond revealing increased borrowing to cover them.
Over the five-year forecast period to 2021, the government would have to borrow more than £120bn extra than it had planned in its budget in March, before the Brexit vote and before Theresa May became prime minister. Of this £59bn was because of Britain leaving the EU.
Ripped off Britain Martin Wolf praised the sensible policy from Mr Hammond, but bemoaned the hand he had to play. "The UK is likely to be poorer than it would have been if it had not made the decision to exit the EU. The chancellor, the government and the country must live with the results, not least for deficits and debt."
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After Brexit: What Future for the EU’s Overseas Relations? Join leading FT writers Martin Wolf and Stefan Wagstyl on November 29 in Berlin for a joint discussion with the Bertelsmann Stiftung European Forum. Details here.