UK ‘trying to have its cake and eat it’ on post-Brexit data protection deal

The final position paper has been released ahead of round three of talks
The final position paper has been released ahead of round three of talks

The UK could continue to abide by EU data protection rules for years after Brexit – and even contribute to future policy – under proposals set out by the Government.

Publishing its latest position paper ahead of negotiations, the Department for Exiting the EU has outlined plans to continue the flow of personal data between organisations in Britain and the union.

According to business leaders, any disruption of companies’ ability to share information could have a knock on effect on the UK’s £240bn data economy.

But officials suggest the close alignment between EU and UK data protection laws provide a strong basis for a unique EU-UK data sharing partnership.

The new document makes clear that current EU directives on data protection are due to be written into UK law in the forthcoming Data Protection Bill, meaning regulations on both sides will be closely aligned on Britain’s exit.

It also calls for the UK’s Information Commissioner to continue to take full part in discussions with EU counterparts following Brexit, adding that the Government “would be open to exploring a model which allows the ICO to be fully involved in future EU regulatory dialogue”.

“Data flows between the UK and EU are crucial for our shared economic prosperity and for wider co-operation, including on law enforcement,” the paper states.

“It is therefore essential that as part of the UK’s future relationship with the EU, we agree arrangements that allow for free flows of data to continue based on mutual trust in each other’s high data protection standards.”

Marking the release of the paper, Digital Minister Matt Hancock said: “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.”

But ministers were accused of “trying to have their cake and eat it”, by Labour critics, with MP Chris Leslie stating: “The Government’s position seems to be that everything should change and yet stay the same... This is likely to be impossible.”