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Brexit: now what?!

What if anything does the UK’s no vote to the EU mean for the security industry – in terms of it doing its job of crime prevention and asset protection, and in terms of its economic well-being as part of the service sector? Mark Rowe asks.

On the morning of Friday, June 24, once the UK’s vote to exit the EU was known, the Financial Times reported among other views of people at work in the City Jorge, a Portuguese security guard, gave a sense of what some non-UK EU nationals were feeling. “I’m so sorry, so disappointed,” he said. We can point to the University of Portsmouth academic Prof Mark Button who wrote before the vote pointing to the private security industry case for staying inside the EU; including that many in the guarding labour force were from outside the UK and EU member states.

During IFSEC – that is, in the final days before the poll – one end user visitor told Professional Security: “Of course, everything’s on hold,” meaning that business in general had been putting off project and spending decisions because of the uncertainty over the referendum outcome; an uncertainty likely to continue until the UK is settled out of the Union, whenever that is. In other words, as part of the service sector, private security must share in the economic turbulence; how the general economy fares affects the spend on security and other services.

There is also the questions of how security people go about their work, of protecting assets. While Brexit throws into doubt the UK updating its data protection law as a result of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and directive earlier this year, the UK still has a data protection law, the Data Protection Act 1998, and the UK watchdog the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office). For the ICO view after the vote, visit its website.

As for European arrest warrants and co-operation more generally with international bodies such as the EU’s Europol, and Interpol, a debate by a panel at the House of Commons arranged by Bucks New University in May heard from Richard Barnes, former Conservative Deputy Mayor of London and Brexiter, that the UK could still co-operate with neighbours and others, even after leaving the EU, just as the UK police got on with working with police from other countries, no matter what the politics of the countries. As he set out, not wanting to be part of the EU was not the same as not being European.

Police views

For the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) Vice-Chair, Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said: “Ahead of the EU referendum, we stated our need to work closely and at speed with European countries to keep people in the UK safe from organised crime, cyberattack, terrorism or violent offenders. This operational requirement must be maintained as the UK leaves the European Union.

“It is now for the Government to negotiate the terms of our relationship with Europe but we will work with them to ensure we retain our ability to share intelligence, biometrics and other data at speed and to work with foreign police forces on linked investigations, enquiries and arrests.”

Likewise Lynne Owens, director general of the National Crime Agency (NCA), said that for now, ongoing operations against international crime threats continue as before.

See also commentary from the Whitehall-based defence and security think-tank RUSI; and Chatham House. For blogger and business continuity trainer Charlie Maclean-Bristol, visit

On the GDPR, Andy Green, technical specialist at Varonis, says: “UK voters have decided to escape the EU, so that means they’ll be free of the GDPR, right? Not really. As many observers have pointed out, the GDPR applies even to companies or “data controllers” outside the EU. This is the extra-territoriality nature of this data law (see article 3). So if UK-based web sites collect personal data from, say, a Dutch or French person, the GDPR still applies! And for UK companies with subsidiaries (and therefore data controllers) within the EU, and which try to get out of the GDPR by outsourcing processing to the UK, the GDPR, again, would still apply. Why? Under the GDPR, the UK would have to be an “approved country” (with adequate data protection) for EU personal data to be transferred out of the zone. In other words, the UK local data laws would have to be up to snuff and at the same level as the GDPR. UK companies doing business in the UK, collecting only personal data of UK citizens, will be covered by the current Data Protection Act, which is basically the EU Data Protection Directive (DPD), the law of land in the EU now. The UK’s local data laws are and will likely be in the future close to the current GDPR. In short, large UK-based multinationals will still have to deal directly with the GDPR, and local UK companies will be under a GDPR-like local data law.”

The majority vote in the referendum of June 23 for the UK to exit the European Union is unchartered territory for the UK and the EU, as well as other EU member states who may now face their own growing calls for a referendum on membership. The country must now pull together to implement the will of the people and work to build a new relationship with the EU. So said the trade body the British Security Industry Association (BSIA). The BSIA went on:

Outwardly, it will be important for the UK to persuade the world that, whilst it might be leaving the EU alliance of nations, it is not leaving Europe, and moreover, that it will remain an enthusiastic partner in all security and trade issues.

The next few days will see Whitehall, Brussels and governments around the world dealing with the immediate fallout of the referendum. The Prime Minister has given notice of his resignation, there are growing discussions in Scotland to hold a second independence referendum and the Bank of England has committed to doing whatever is necessary to to shore up the pound following its immediate volatility overnight.

The coming months will see the UK Government work with the European Union to ensure the best outcome for the UK in the withdrawal process to leave. This will include agreeing on key areas such as access to the single market, security and, crucially for this referendum, the free movement of people.

The BSIA will continue to work with all of the key organisations in this process, including the UK Government, UK and EU Parliaments, devolved UK Parliaments and other key EU organisations to ensure the interests of the security industry are best represented as the UK moves forward to a new chapter in its history.


And on cyber security, Aftab Afzal, SVP and GM EMEA at NSFOCUS IB pointed out that cyber is a global challenge and not EU specific. “With the vote being so close, the unrest will translate into some increased cyber attacks and organisations at the forefront should take extra caution. As many cyber security vendors report dollar revenues, currency market volatility could see some prices increased. I do not foresee any big changes short term in cross border collaboration in cyber security. Longer term, the vendors with global research teams who contribute to intelligence communities will play a bigger role in cooperation, as cyber security has always been a global issue.”

Picture by Mark Rowe, polling station, Woolwich, London.


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