Govt plans for EU data transfer deal branded ‘nonsense’

Parliament_11Privacy experts have ridiculed Government claims that a post-Brexit “adequacy agreement” on data protection – which will allow UK firms to continue to transfer data to and from the EU – will be secured before January 31 next year, arguing that it is “utter nonsense”.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement to the House of Commons that the UK will develop a separate and independent data protection policy “maintaining high standards as we do so”.

Johnson added: “The Government will work hard to achieve a balanced agreement that is in the interests of both sides, reflecting the wide range of shared interests. Any agreement must respect the sovereignty of both parties and the autonomy of our legal orders. It cannot therefore include any regulatory alignment.”

However, in the final paragraph the statement concludes: “The UK would see the EU’s assessment processes on… data adequacy as technical and confirmatory of the reality that the UK will be operating exactly the same regulatory frameworks as the EU at the point of exit.”

Privacy expert Daragh O’Brien, managing director of data governance and ethics company Castlebridge, tweeted: “Basically, UK position on #DataProtection #Adequacy is a bit like arguing they should be let into Led Zeppelin because Boris can play (most of) Stairway to Heaven on the kazoo.

“Opening paragraphs: ‘no regulatory alignment’, closing paragraph ‘but adequacy will be done and dusted because of all that regulatory alignment.”

Meanwhile consultant Tim Turner added: “If you think we’re going to get an adequacy decision with these bozos in charge, I have a bridge to sell you.”

As far back as September 2017, the CBI argued that without an adequacy deal the UK’s £240bn data economy will fall “off a cliff edge”. Even back then it was calling for an interim deal on data protection and data-flows.

More recently the so-called “bosses union” had urged the Government to begin preparations to immediately request an adequacy agreement. However, the quickest adequacy decision took 18 months to finalise.

The most recent deal, signed with Japan, took years to complete and saw Tokyo join just 12 countries, including Argentina, Israel, and New Zealand, which have similar deals with the EU.

Ironically, a December European Court ruling in favour of Facebook – a company which is seen by many as the “data protection devil” – means UK firms will still be able to use so-called “standard contract clauses” to transfer data back and forth from EU states.

However, most experts agree that an adequacy deal is far more water-tight. One industry source said: “Does this Government actually know its arse from its elbow? On the one hand they are saying we don’t want regulatory alignment, on the other they say they do. Quite frankly it’s utter nonsense.”

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