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Lords call for action on post-Brexit data flows

18/07/17

Committee report warns that UK will be at competitive disadvantage if legal friction prevents unhindered flow of data with EU states

The UK could be at a competitive disadvantage in the world economy if it does not secure “unhindered” and “uninterrupted” data flows with EU countries post-Brexit, a House of Lords committee has warned.

Logo - Brexit imposed on Union JackThe Home Affairs Sub-Committee has published a report on the issue that says that if there is increased friction around data transfers across the borders it could present a non-tariff trade barrier.

The failure could also hinder police and security cooperation.

Even though the UK will no longer be bound by EU data protection laws after Brexit, there is no prospect of a clean break and the legal control will apply when data is transferred across the borders. This will affect UK businesses that handle EU data.

Adequacy decision

The committee recommends that the most effective way to achieve unhindered and uninterrupted flows of data would be to secure an ‘adequacy decision’, which would confirm that the UK’s data protection rules offered an equivalent standard of protection as the EU’s. This would provide the least burdensome and most comprehensive platform for sharing data with the EU, and offer stability and certainty for businesses.

But it would take time to arrange and would probably require a transitional arrangement before it could go through all the procedures. The committee adds that the UK could be held to a higher standard as a third country than a member state.

Alternative mechanisms would be less effective, the committee says.

Future details of the UK’s data protection rules will be determined by new legislation in the area. The intention for this was included in the recent Queen's Speech, but the details have not yet emerged.

18-fold increase

Chair of the committee, Lord Jay, said: “The volume of data stored electronically and moving across borders has grown hugely over the last 20 years. Between 2005 and 2012 alone, internet traffic across borders increased 18-fold. The maintenance of unhindered data flows is therefore crucial, both for business and for effective police cooperation.

“The committee was concerned by the lack of detail on how the Government plans to maintain unhindered data flows post-Brexit. It was concerned, too, by the risk that EU and UK data protection rules could diverge over time when the UK has left the EU.

“To avoid this, the committee urges the Government to secure a continuing role for the Information Commissioner’s Office on the European Data Protection Board”.

The report says the adequacy decision would also affect the exchange of data for law enforcement, and raising concerns about the UK's ability to maintain deep police and security cooperation with the EU post-Brexit.

This adds to the pressure for a transitional agreement in the likelihood of the deal not being struck before the UK leaves the EU in May 2019.

Image by Swissbert, public domain through flickr

 

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