Hopes of securing a place for the UK at the top table of EU data protection regulation post-Brexit have been blown out of the water in a move which, in Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s own words, will leave Britain “outside, pressing our faces on the glass…without influence”.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator in the Brexit talks, has ruled out any UK involvement in the new European Data Protection Board – which succeeded the Article 29 Working Party when GDPR came into force last week.
In a further blow, Barnier also said that the once the UK leaves the EU on March 29 2019, Britain will be relegated to “third country” status, a major threat to the UK achieving an “adequacy” agreement.
Barnier said: “It is the United Kingdom that is leaving the European Union. It cannot, on leaving, ask us to change who we are and how we work. The United Kingdom wants to leave. That is its decision. Not ours. And that has consequences.”
Commenting on the UK’s position on data protection published this week, Barnier said that Britain believes it is in interests of EU business for the ICO to remain on the EDPB, but he countered that Brexit “is not, and never will be, in the interest of EU business”.
Barnier added: “The United Kingdom decided to leave our harmonised system of decision-making and enforcement. It must respect the fact that the European Union will continue to work on the basis of this system, which has allowed us to build a single market, and which allows us to deepen our single market in response to new challenges.
“And, as indicated in the European Council guidelines, the UK must understand that the only possibility for the EU to protect personal data is through an adequacy decision. It is one thing to be inside the Union, and another to be outside.”
Barnier’s comments come despite a joint campaign mounted by Google, Unilever and 25 other companies and industry associations calling on Brussels chiefs to ensure they secure a “new and positive relationship” between the EU and UK post-Brexit.
The letter, which was signed by UK marketing bodies the DMA, IPA, ISBA, IAB, as well as trade associations from Germany, Italy, Austria, France, Portugal, Poland and Sweden, called on the European Commission to recognise the UK’s deep alignment with the EU on data protection policy.
In evidence to the House of Lords EU Home Affairs sub-committee inquiry into the implications of Brexit on the UK’s data protection laws, Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said there was a risk that the UK could find itself “outside, pressing our faces on the glass…without influence”.
She urged the Government to “do anything they can” to ensure that the ICO had “some status, be it observer status” or something similar. “Failure to achieve this would be frustrating for citizens and for Government,” she said.
Whether this is the EU’s final decision, however, remains to be seen. Brexit negotiations are still ongoing.
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