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Post-Brexit Data Sharing Deal: Tech welcomes proposal but the devil is in the detail

Early negotiations are underway between the UK government and the EU over a data sharing deal to ensure there are no substantial regulatory changes following Brexit.

By April Slattery

The UK government has proposed an ambitious post-Brexit data sharing deal with the EU, arguing that its unique status as a leader in electronic commerce should buy special treatment from the EU regarding any future standards.

The ambitious early strategy emerged in policy papers published by the Department for Exiting, entitled “The exchange and protection of personal data: A future partnership.” The proposal was published ahead of the third round of Brexit talks, which are taking place on Monday in Brussels.

The government’s proposal suggests mutually agreeing to recognise both parties’ data protection frameworks, building on the EU’s existing adequacy model and bringing this in parallel with the new Data Protection Bill to secure a mutual adequacy that both the EU and UK can work around.

The policy said: “The government believes it would be in the interest of both the UK and EU to agree early in the process to mutually recognise each other’s data protection frameworks as a basis for the continued free flows of data between the EU and the UK from the point of exit until such time as new and more permanent arrangements come into force.”

The Government believes that an early deal will benefit both sides to create a UK-EU model for exchanging and protecting personal data. This aims to maintain effective cooperation and connections with EU partner’s post-Brexit.

UK Government hopes to secure an early deal for safe data sharing post-brexit

Experts in the technology industry have welcomed the proposal, saying that any early agreement in regards to data sharing will benefit the UK economy and dispel some uncertainty brought about by Brexit.

Antony Walker, Deputy CEO techUK, said: “The Government’s paper suggests that they have listened to the tech sector, and the thousands of businesses across the whole economy who rely on data transfers to serve their businesses and their consumers.  Securing the free flow of personal data is a social and economic imperative in the modern world and the Government is right to identify this issue as a fundamental part of any successful Brexit negotiation.

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“The proposals set out an aim to secure a Mutual Adequacy agreement, this is the approach that techUK has called for and represents the only reliable mechanism for tackling this problem.  It is particularly welcome that the Government goes further in recognising the value of continued engagement of the UK’s Data Protection Regulator, the ICO, with its counterparts across Europe.”

In similar agreement was Mark Lubbock, technology partner at Ashurts, who highlighted the benefits to businesses in the proposed data sharing deal.

“Building on the EU’s existing adequacy model, the Government is keen to agree a mutually established basis for free data flows between the EU and EU-approved countries and the UK,” Mr Lubbock said.

“Extending this model to the UK-EU relationship would allow UK businesses and public authorities to transfer data to and from the European Economic Area, and accepted third countries, without having to establish safe grounds for each transfer.

Read More: Does Brexit mean Brexit? How to mitigate the challenges of cross-border operations

“This will be crucial across a range of business sectors; not least the financial services industry. Key to these plans is the Data Protection Bill, which is expected to substantially mirror the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.”

 

However, some industry experts have been quick to criticize the vague proposals and have questioned how such plans will work in reality. Brian Lord, former deputy director GCHQ said: “The devil is in the detail of implementation:  it is much easier to make the statement of “agree early in the process to mutually recognise each other’s data protection frameworks as the basis….until new and more permanent arrangements come into force”, than it is to actually implement it. Displaying an early deal doesn’t carry 100% certainty.

Read More: Tech sector reacts: Data Protection Bill

“Data flow and accessibility to data is increasingly the oxygen of governments, law enforcement, commercial entities of all sizes and private citizens; we live, govern, learn, trade and socialise on-line. Inevitably the risk remains that data flow and exchange is a matter of mutual dependency, economic strength and social evolution.

“Recognition and respect of mutual data-flow’s borderless necessity needs to be banked and secured before the challenges of the minutiae are addressed.”

Securing an early deal with the EU for data sharing will definitely benefit a wide range of industries across the UK, to guarantee data flows remain effective post-Brexit. However, as the policy papers are provisions and suggestions, if the EU don’t agree the UK Government will need to look to other ways to ensure the same quality of sharing after Brexit comes into action.

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