The European Union formally recognised the UK’s data protection standards, after more than a year of constructive talks, the UK government has said.

The European Commission said that it has “adopted two adequacy decisions for the United Kingdom – one under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the other for the Law Enforcement Directive.”

It said that because of this agreement, “personal data can now flow freely from the European Union to the United Kingdom where it benefits from an essentially equivalent level of protection to that guaranteed under EU law.”

Data agreement

Agreement was possible because the UK’s data protection system continues to be based on the same rules that were applicable when the UK was a Member State of the EU, said the EC, which added that the UK has fully incorporated the principles, rights and obligations of the GDPR and the Law Enforcement Directive into its post-Brexit legal system.

However the agreement will only last four years, and renewal is dependent on the UK keeping an adequate level of data protection in the years ahead.

“The UK has left the EU but today its legal regime of protecting personal data is as it was,” noted Věra Jourová, VP for values and transparency. “Because of this, we are adopting these adequacy decisions today.”

“After months of careful assessments, today we can give EU citizens certainty that their personal data will be protected when it is transferred to the UK,” added Didier Reynders, commissioner for justice.

“This is an essential component of our new relationship with the UK,” said Reynders. “It is important for smooth trade and the effective fight against crime. The Commission will be closely monitoring how the UK system evolves in the future and we have reinforced our decisions to allow for this and for an intervention if needed.”

UK reaction

The British government welcomed the EU formally recognising the UK’s high data protection standards.

“This will allow the continued seamless flow of personal data from the EU to the UK,” said the government. “The decisions mean that UK businesses and organisations can continue to receive personal data from the EU and EEA without having to put additional arrangements in place with European counterparts.”

The UK said this free flow of personal data supports trade, innovation and investment, assists with law enforcement agencies tackling crime, and supports the delivery of critical public services sharing personal data as well as facilitating health and scientific research.

“After more than a year of constructive talks it is right the European Union has formally recognised the UK’s high data protection standards,” noted Secretary of State for Digital Oliver Dowden.

“This will be welcome news to businesses, support continued cooperation between the UK and the EU and help law enforcement authorities keep people safe,” said Dowden. “We will now focus on unlocking the power of data to drive innovation and boost the economy while making sure we protect people’s safety and privacy.”

And the agreement was also welcomed by the business community.

“This breakthrough in the EU-UK adequacy decision will be welcomed by businesses across the country,” noted John Foster CBI director of policy. “The free flow of data is the bedrock of the modern economy and essential for firms across all sectors – from automotive to logistics – playing an important role in everyday trade of goods and services.”

“This positive step will help us move forward as we develop a new trading relationship with the EU,” Foster concluded.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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