Institute of European Law Annual Lecture 2020

Tuesday 1 December 2020 (15:00-16:00)

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Transatlantic Data Flows and Digital Trade Post-Brexit: Trade-Offs, Triangles and Trysts

Speaker: Elaine Fahey, Professor of Law, Jean Monnet Chair in Law and Transatlantic Relations, City Law School, City, University of London

Online 15:00 on 1 December 2020
This event is by zoom invitation, if you wish to receive an invitation, please contact


The talk considers the transatlantic negotiations on data and digital trade between the EU-US on the one hand and UK-US and UK-EU on the other. Before Schrems II, Transatlantic data flows constituted of the largest and most sophisticated regulated regimes in the globe- e.g. as to the EU-US Privacy Shield, covering over one billion consumers and citizens. Digital trade does not fall part of the current EU-US trade talks ongoing for several years but is a key dimension of the UK-US negotiations. Yet can digital trade unite the transatlantic relationship, even post-Brexit, more than divide? The UK has made significant efforts to obtain an adequacy decision from the EU but also proposes to diverge from EU data rules whilst keeping the GDPR. Can the UK evade the reach of EU data law? Can the US avoid adopting ‘a’ GDPR? Or is it veering in such a direction? How does the Schrems II and Privacy International CJEU decisions affect the UK adequacy decision? Digital Service Taxes currently fall outside of trade agreements yet are complex background instruments. How do developments as to digital services taxes impact on trade agreements? The talk considers the place of transatlantic data and digital trade as a triangle of inter-connecting relations. Do high standards uniquely unify the future of transatlantic relations of the UK-EU-US? Is the force of the EU as a global data actor limited by turns to data localisation or do its high standards suggest more ‘Brussels Effect’ can be anticipated as likely? It argues that data and digital trade uniquely unify the transatlantic constellation of the post-Brexit EU. However, recently CJEU decisions increasingly champion data localisation and exceptionalism which will become harder to implement and harder to export. The ‘Brussels Effect’ of EU data law in particularly is arguably highly dependent upon the UK acceptance of EU rules as much as Facebook’s adoption of the GDPR and championing of a global GDPR.


Elaine Fahey is Jean Monnet Chair of Law & Transatlantic Relations and Professor of Law at the Institute for the Study of European Law (ISEL), the City Law School, City, University of London. In 2020, she is a Visiting Fellow at the Department of Law, EUI, Florence and iCourts, Copenhagen. She was an Emile Noël Fellow at New York University (NYU) Law School and a visiting professor at Keio University Law School, Tokyo, Japan. Previously, she was a Senior Postdoctoral Researcher at Amsterdam Centre for European Law & Governance (ACELG) at the University of Amsterdam, a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute (EUI), Florence, and Assistant Lecturer and Lecturer in Law in Ireland (Dublin Institute of Technology; Trinity College Dublin). She has practised as a Barrister and was Chairperson of the Irish Society for European Law. She has been a stagiaire at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg, a Judicial Research Assistant, Four Courts, Dublin and a Judicial Extern, Los Angeles Federal District Court (9th Circuit). 

Her research interests span the relationship between EU law and global governance, trade, transatlantic relations, the EU’s Area of Freedom, Security and Justice and the study of law beyond the State. Her publications include a monograph, The Global Reach of EU Law (Routledge, 2016) and the multi-disciplinary edited volumes Framing Convergence with the Global Legal Order: the EU and the World (Hart, 2020), On Brexit: Law, Justices and Injustices (Edward Elgar, 2019), Framing The Subjects and Objects of EU law (Edward Elgar, 2017), The Actors of Postnational Rule-Making: Conceptual Challenges of European and International Law (Routledge, 2015), A Transatlantic Community of Law (Cambridge University Press, 2014), Institutionalisation beyond the Nation State (Springer, 2018) and the textbook, An Introduction to Law & Global Governance (Edward Elgar, 2018).
She was awarded an Erasmus+ Jean Monnet Chair in Law & Transatlantic Relations in 2019. Currently, she is co-investigator in the Marie Curie ITN on EU and Transatlantic Investment and Trade ('EUTIP') (2017-2021) MSCA ITN Grant No. 72191 and lead PI in the ESRC-funded FIC UK-EU-Japan SSH Connections grant, TRILATTRADE,. She was recently awarded a British Academy/ Leverhulme Research Grant for the project 'Between Internal Laws and Global Practices: UN Instruments in the EU’s Area of Freedom, Security and Justice'. 

She was Associate Dean (International) from 2016-2019 and interim Associate Dean (Research) in 2019. She has been co-convener of the Institute for the Study of European Law (ISEL), City Law School since 2016.

Institute of European Law Annual Lectures

In 2001, the IEL launched a series of annual lectures so as to enable students and members of the local academic and legal communities to hear, first-hand, the views of distinguished figures involved in European affairs on a topic of European law. Recent lectures have included:

2019 Annual lecture

Professor Mary E Footer, Professor of International Economic Law, University of Nottingham School of Law, The Retreat from Multilateralism and the Challenges of Global Economic Governance from an EU Perspective

2018 Annual lecture

Ian Forrester QC, Judge at the General Court of the European Union, Will there be life after Brexit? European law in the UK after March 2019

2017 Annual lecture

Eleanor Sharpston QC,  Advocate General at the Court of Justice of the European Union, Of the State of the (European) Union and of Trade Deal

2016 Annual lecture

Jacqueline Minor, Head of the Representation of European Commission in the United Kingdom, Britain's Place in Europe

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