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It must have looked relatively simple to a lot of British voters: should the United Kingdom remain within the decision-making structures of the European Union, or should it fully reclaim its sovereignty over all areas of legislation?

Since the UK opted on June 23 to leave the EU, however, many voters are finding that the decision was anything but simple. And now the UK faces a possibly even more complex decision: should it remain part of the European single market?

Companies that handle personal data and thousands of privacy professionals will hope the UK does stay in the single market. This would allow business as usual to more or less continue--but would also require the UK's political leaders to make some extremely difficult compromises.

In data protection terms, the UK's continued participation in the single market would allow the EU general data protection regulation (GDPR, Regulation (EU) 2016/679), which was finalized early in 2016 and which will apply from May 25, 2018, to take full effect in the UK.

Jan Philipp Albrecht, the German Green lawmaker who was the European Parliament's lead negotiator on the GDPR, told Bloomberg BNA June 29 that "I very much hope that the UK will opt to stay in the European single market."

The UK had been "from the beginning very supportive of a new data protection framework that creates more legal certainty. All in all, it would be a real pity if the UK does not benefit from that," Albrecht said.

By Stephen Gardner. A version of this article was published by Bloomberg BNA. Read the article in full at

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