Unhindered data flows "crucial" post-Brexit, warns House of Lords

Bruno Cirelli
Luglio 18, 2017

Such disruption could present a non-tariff trade barrier and hinder law enforcement co-operation, the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee says.

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The Government should pursue full regulatory equivalence with the EU with respect to data protection in order to ensure unhindered data flows between the United Kingdom and EU post-Brexit, offer stability and certainty for businesses and maintain police and security cooperation, says the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee in a new report.

The inquiry is part of a series of short investigations by the House of Lords EU committee and its six sub-committees examining the key issues that will arise in the Brexit negotiations. The maintenance of unhindered data flows is therefore crucial, both for business and for effective police cooperation.

It called for guarantees the United Kingdom would continue to meet shared standards. "[It is] absolutely vital that law enforcement agencies work together across borders to share information in order to protect the public".

Although the Government has stated that they "will seek to maintain the stability of data transfers between the EU, Member States and the UK", little detail has so far been offered on how the Government plans to deliver this outcome.

The best option for the United Kingdom to continue trading data with the EU post-Brexit would be to secure an "adequacy decision" from the European Commission, which provides a standard of protection which is "essentially equivalent" to EU data protection standards.

This would provide the least burdensome and most comprehensive platform for sharing data with the European Union, and would offer stability and certainty for businesses, the report said, noting that alternative mechanisms to allow data to flow out of the European Union for commercial purposes were less effective than an adequacy decision.

Alternatives to this are less effective and would leave the United Kingdom subject to legal challenges, concludes the Committee.

The report warned that if an adequacy decision was not agreed, there were no apparent fall-back options for law enforcement purposes that would enable data to be shared with the EU.

The ability to move data across borders has become central to both trade and security - but Brexit is threatening both.

Condon also said the UK's insistence that it would not acknowledge rulings from the European Court of Justice after Brexit was the largest "legal impediment" to a transitional deal on data sharing.

"The volume of data stored electronically and moving across borders has grown hugely over the last 20 years", Lord Jay said.

"The committee was concerned by the lack of detail on how the government plans to maintain unhindered data flows post-Brexit", the committee chairman, Michael Jay, said in an emailed statement.

That's according to an inquiry by the Lords Select Committee in a report dubbed "Brexit: the European Union data protection package", which examines the overhaul of the EU's data protection standards enacted in 2016, and the implications for the United Kingdom and European Union data flows. "We urge the government to ensure that any transitional arrangements agreed during the withdrawal negotiations provide for continuity of data-sharing, pending the adoption of adequacy decisions in respect of the United Kingdom".

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