The impact of Brexit on electronic signatures

Legality of eSignature in a post-Brexit world

As the UK has now withdrawn from the EU, it's important to examine Brexit's impact on e-signatures, if any.

How does Brexit impact electronic signatures in the UK? 

Overall, Brexit will have no effect on the e-signature-friendly English law of electronic signatures. The UK has passed the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to provide legal certainty and continuity of EU laws under UK laws, including eIDAS, which governs electronic transactions in the European Single Market and electronic signatures.  

The status of electronic signatures will remain the same under the Withdrawal Act as it did under eIDAS and it is expected that the eIDAS Regulation will be carried forward into UK law given that the regulation aims to create easier, safer and quicker ways for parties to carry out transactions on digital platforms. The government has also said that qualified signatures supported by an EU trust service provider will continue to be recognised under UK law.  

As the UK is no longer a member of the EU and therefore not subject to EU data law, how can businesses ensure DocuSign data is adequately protected with regard to data transfer?

The UK will continue to maintain robust data protection laws even after Brexit. The UK Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK GDPR mirror the protections afforded under the EU GDPR. One of the transfer safeguards recognised by both EU and UK data protection law is "Binding Corporate Rules" or BCRs for short. These BCRs are personal data protection policies, and they are seen by the EU as the gold standard for data protection. DocuSign will also continue to monitor whether transfers of personal data to the UK will require any supplementary measures in line with recommendations from the European Data Protection Board. For more on GDPR post-Brexit, please visit here.

Are wet signatures prudent alternatives to electronic signatures considering the legal uncertainty of UK laws post-Brexit?

The United Kingdom has legally recognised electronic signatures since 2002, with the Electronic Signatures Regulations. Further, the UK passed the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to provide legal certainty and continuity of EU laws under UK laws, including eIDAS. Visit DocuSign’s eSignature Legality Guide for more information on electronic signature laws in the UK. Electronic signatures, when combined with an audit trail, tamper-evident sealing, strong security and authentication are just as enforceable as wet signatures, if not more, because of the robust court-admissible evidence they contain.

Regardless of the UK’s status as a member of the EU, the Electronic Communications Act of 2000,  Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions Regulations 2016, and existing case law in England and Wales set out the legality of electronic signatures. This legal framework has been established independently of the current EU regulation. Brexit therefore should not cause any uncertainty. 

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