UK Wants Frictionless Post-Brexit Data Sharing Agreement With EU

The government wants to retain existing data transfer arrangements between the UK and EU after Brexit, claiming that any drastic change in the relationship would severely damage Britain’s digital economy.

Minister for Digital Matt Hancock said the sharing of data in a “safe, properly regulated way” would ensure high data protection standards, the privacy of citizens and certainty and continuity for businesses concerned about the prospect of leaving the EU.

It would also ensure British law enforcement agencies could work with their foreign counterparts.

UK EU data sharing

However the plan also demand “respect” for UK sovereignty, the ability for the country to establish itself as a leader in data protection and for any arrangement not to add unnecessary costs to businesses.

“In the modern world, data flows increasingly underpin trade, business and all relationships. We want the secure flow of data to be unhindered in the future as we leave the EU,” said Hancock. “So a strong future data relationship between the UK and EU, based on aligned data protection rules, is in our mutual interest.

“The UK is leading the way on modern data protection laws and we have worked closely with our EU partners to develop world leading data protection standards.The paper published today sets out how we think our data relationship should continue. Our goal is to combine strong privacy rules with a relationship that allows flexibility, to give consumers and businesses certainty in their use of data.”

The fallout from the invalidation of the ‘Safe Harbour’ EU-US data sharing agreement in 2015 should serve as a warning to the UK government however.

EU data protection laws dictate that EU citizen’s personal information cannot be shared with countries deemed to have less than stringent privacy regulations, such as the US, but Safe Harbour allowed some data to circumvent these restrictions to be transmitted across the Atlantic.

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Safe Harbour was quashed amid concerns these standards were not being met and a replacement called Privacy Shield took its place in 2016.

“The free flow of personal data across borders is fundamental to trade, commerce and communication,” said Antony Walker, deputy CEO of industry body techUK.

“The tech sector, and increasingly every business in the UK that does business internationally, needs a clear legal basis for data transfer post-Brexit.  We are pleased that the Government acknowledges the urgent need for a solution to this problem or they risk serious harm to both businesses and consumers.

“This is a complex problem but there is a well understood solution.  That would be for the UK and EU to agree a mutual ‘adequacy’ agreement that provides a watertight legal framework for data transfers.  It is not yet clear whether the Government’s ‘unique’ solution would go down this route.

“Securing an adequacy agreement or any other unique arrangement will take time. The fastest adequacy decision ever given by the EU took 18 months.  This again underlines the need for a significant, time limited, interim period that allows both Government and businesses the time need to adapt to a post-Brexit system.”

In recent weeks, the government has also published proposals about how it plans to match the EU’s planned GDPR and NIS directives with new legislation and fines for companies that do not comply.

Quiz: What do you know about Europe’s contribution to tech?

Steve McCaskill

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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