Brexit: Will the Internet continue to work like at home?

, by Juuso Järviniemi

Brexit: Will the Internet continue to work like at home?
Photo: CC0

The Brexit negotiations are still far from reaching a definitive conclusion, but what seems certain, if the United Kingdom is to leave the EU at all, is that the UK is on its way out of the European Single Market. The UK Parliament has already voted against EEA membership and, depending on the outcome of the negotiations, the future of the UK’s place within the Digital Single Market is also on the line. The erection of firewalls on Britain’s shores would also make harder the lives of EU27 nationals, especially travellers. A brief reflection from the Finnish perspective.

When you hear the words “Digital Single Market”, the first thing that comes to mind is cheap mobile data on your trips abroad. In the year 2017, according to Statistics Finland, Finns made a total of 250,000 trips to the UK. The average duration of a trip was nearly five nights.

When, at the same time, Finnish people are known to be overwhelmingly the world’s most prolific users of data connections, cheap roaming cannot merely be discounted as an argument that pro-Europeans deploy in debates for want of better ones. Over the years, Brexit may unnecessarily limit hundreds of thousands of Finnish tourists’ opportunities for accessing the Internet.

Another benefit of the Digital Single Market is that a user’s digital subscriptions are retained even when crossing national borders. A Canadian friend of mine has experienced this in practice when she downloaded a Monty Python film on Netflix while in the UK, but when she went back to Canada, the film was no longer available to watch. The narrowing of the film selection on a rainy night at the hotel may not ruin your trip to the Scottish Highlands, but it certainly doesn’t make the trip any better either.

Because it’s about the Single Market, the UK may also be left behind from the train of progress in terms of online shopping. The EU is currently in the process of facilitating shopping in foreign online shops within the European Single Market so that, for example, a Finn’s access to a shop’s British version cannot be blocked as long as the UK stays in the EU. In terms of language skills, Finnish people would be able to browse British selections, so long as the opportunity still exists.

As the world keeps changing, the Digital Single Market continues to develop. However, if the EU always needs to agree on economic policy and development separately with the UK, the UK will constantly be left behind from a Finn’s viewpoint. While elsewhere in Europe, a Finn can be increasingly certain that things work the same as at home when you go online, in the UK there may be more uncertainty in the air. In the good old days, you couldn’t use Netflix or Spotify abroad but I dare to think most Finns would rather live in the EU era – even when dealing with Brits.

This is a translation of a column to be published on European Movement Finland’s print Brexit publication this autumn. For other publications by European Movement Finland, see

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