British business groups have welcomed the latest Government commitment to enable unhindered data sharing with the European Union after Brexit, despite the strategy being big on promises, but remarkably sparse on detail.
The document, published today, includes phrases such as the Government will consider the case for a “unique approach” that could allow data to continue to be exchanged to ensure ongoing competitiveness, innovation and job creation.
It adds that it is considering “an ambitious model” for the protection and exchange of personal data with the EU that reflects the unprecedented alignment between UK and European law and recognises the high data protection standards that will be in place at the point of exit.
However, the document is unlikely to do anything to clear up the current confusion over exactly how the agreement will pan out. A House of Lords report recently criticised the Government’s lack of detail, urging it to “not only signal its commitment to unhindered and uninterrupted flows of data, but set out clearly, and as soon as possible, how it plans to deliver that outcome”.
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, so a strong future data relationship between the UK and EU, based on aligned data protection rules, is in our mutual interest.
“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,” he added.
In response, TechUK deputy CEO Antony Walker said: “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,” said Walker.
Meanwhile, CBI director of innovation Tom Thackray added: “From booking a hotel room to collaborating on medical research, data underpins international trade and the products and services consumers rely on.
“The strong alignment between British and European data standards opens the door to crafting a robust framework that enables the uninterrupted flow of data. In the short term, a seamless transition deal is necessary to protect the free flow of information and provide legal certainty to businesses and consumers,” he said.
The CBI has previously warned that if no transition deal is agreed, the UK’s potential £240bn data economy is at risk of isolation.
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