In the midst of a turbulent week in British politics, as Prime Minister Theresa May battles to save her withdrawal agreement with the European Union, marketers in the UK have expressed alarm at the consequences of the country leaving without a deal.

A report from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has found that half of UK marketers (51%) are concerned there will be a financial impact to their organisations if the current free flow of cross-border data is halted because of Brexit.

With just 25% of marketers stating they are unconcerned, the DMA warned that “the UK government’s decision to delay the Brexit deal vote in Parliament [which was meant to have taken place on January 11th] has only increased uncertainty … and whether the free flow of data will be disrupted by delays agreeing a deal”.

The report, entitled Data privacy – an industry perspective, also revealed that the vast majority of UK marketers (90%) want the UK to retain access to a digital single market, up from 78% in May 2018.

Mrs May spent yesterday in Brussels in a last ditch effort to persuade fellow EU leaders to agree to legal assurances to a so-called “backstop” plan that aims to prevent a manned border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Many of her own MPs, as well as the ten MPs from the Democratic Unionist Party on whom her government depends for support, are bitterly opposed to the backstop amid concerns it would keep the UK in an EU customs union indefinitely if a future trading partnership cannot be negotiated in time.

Tensions rose to such an extent this week that Mrs May faced an unsuccessful bid to oust her as leader of the Conservative Party, and the febrile atmosphere in Westminster has raised serious concerns across numerous industries about a no-deal Brexit.

Marketing is particularly vulnerable, not just because of the need for trouble-free data exchange, but the industry also relies heavily on the skills offered by EU migrants who are currently able to move freely under the EU’s single market rules.

“The challenges of a no-deal Brexit would be very complicated for British businesses, as the disruption to the free flow of data between the UK and EU would be very damaging and costly,” said Chris Combemale, CEO of the DMA.

The DMA survey also asked UK marketers about their attitudes towards the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force on May 25th.

It found the proportion of marketers who feel the benefits of the GDPR outweigh the costs has doubled from 16% prior to its introduction to 32% in late 2018.

Furthermore, almost four-fifths (78%) believe the UK should continue to adhere to the existing GDPR legislation even after Brexit.

Sourced from DMA; additional content by WARC staff