Member News

The Weekly Vulcan View | Analysis of Latest EU Developments 22 – 26 July

Key Events This Week

Boris Johnson wins race to become UK’s next Prime Minister
Boris Johnson was elected leader of the British Conservative Party and became the seventy-seventh Prime Minister of the UK on Tuesday. The former Mayor of London was a clear favourite from the outset and beat rival, former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, by 92,153 votes to 46,656 – an overwhelming 66% of the vote.

In his acceptance speech, Johnson reiterated his campaign mantra: “Deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Jeremy Corbyn.” He thanked his predecessor, Theresa May and said he wasn’t daunted by the challenge of delivering Brexit. Johnson has also promised an extensive list of domestic reforms including reform of the UK’s social care system, 20,000 additional police officers as well as new rules and additional capital to equalise school funding.

Johnson faced internal revolt even before entering Downing Street over his refusal to rule out no deal, with the likes of Chancellor Philip Hammond, Justice Secretary David Gauke and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart announcing their resignation before Johnson took over the reins of power. Wednesday witnessed one of the most radical cabinet overhauls in history as Johnson appointed leading Brexiteers to his new cabinet, including Dominic Raab as foreign secretary and Priti Patel returning to government as home secretary.

The month-long leadership campaign was dominated by arguments over Brexit with Mr Johnson determined to take the UK out of the EU on 31 October, with or without a deal. An ardent Brexit backer, he has pledged to strike a “new” and “better deal” to maximise the opportunities of Brexit and to ditch the “anti-democratic” Irish backstop plan. Following Johnson’s election, the EU Commission’s Chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said he was looking forward to working with Mr Johnson “to facilitate the ratification of the withdrawal agreement and achieve an orderly Brexit”. However, EU leaders – including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar – have again rejected any reopening of the agreement including the ‘backstop’ arrangement.


Facebook’s EU data compliance investigation: decision by end of 2019
The investigation into Facebook’s compliance with EU data privacy regulations is expected to be concluded by December 2019. The Data Protection Commission (DPC) in Ireland, which is the lead EU supervisory authority for most major tech companies, is heading the inquiries into Facebook and other multinational technology companies headquartered in Dublin. The body is charged with overseeing their compliance with the European Union’s tough data privacy rules.

In May, Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon told the US Senate that 8 of the 17 investigations into multinational technology companies headquartered in Ireland involve Facebook. The social media giant could face a fine of up to 4% of its annual global turnover, or about €2 billion. However, Dale Sunderland, the Deputy Commissioner at the DPC who is leading the investigation, hasn’t given away any detail about the nature of the decision, the size of a potential fine or what concerns might be addressed by the findings of the investigation. The DPC will have to share its findings with other European data protection authorities who will provide feedback on the decisions and consider whether the measures are sufficient in addressing any breaches of the regulations.

The DPC has come under scrutiny from campaigners and EU data protection agencies for not acting swiftly on data breaches: Ireland has not yet issued a GDPR-related fine. However, since July 2018 the agency has opened 20 investigations which are currently ongoing. Sunderland defended the lengthy procedures pointing to a need to make sure the decisions would be upheld in court.

European Commission prepares for new Secretary-General
Current Secretary-General of the European Commission and long-time confidante of President Jean Claude Juncker, Martin Selmayr, will leave Brussels at the end of July to take up a new role as European Commission representative to Austria.

As the European Commission’s most powerful civil servant, Selmayr has been a somewhat controversial figure over the years, joining in 2004 and rising through the ranks to become Juncker’s chief of staff in 2014. His fast track appointment in February of 2018 to the role of Secretary-General in the European Commission, was heavily criticized for its lack of transparency. Many also felt that Selmayr lacked the experience for such a role. The path to becoming Secretary-General of the European Commission would generally entail a stint as the head of a Commission department, a position which Selmayr had never held.

France would now like to take its turn in holding the powerful position, which will be available at the end of next week. Selmayr had suggested that Olivier Guersent, Director-General in DG FISMA, take the role, with many believing him to be a very suitable candidate for the role, considering his near thirty-year experience in the EU civil service. But, as the European Commission Presidency shows, the early favourite often fails to land the top job.

Wednesday 7 August – ECB Governing Council (Frankfurt)
Monday 26 August – Informal meeting of Defence Ministers (Helsinki)
Thursday 29 August -I nformal meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers (Helsinki)

Compliments of Vulcan Consulting, a member of the EACCNY