How Will Brexit Affect Data Sharing in the EU?

With the UK due to leave the EU as soon as 2019, businesses and police agencies are now facing the troubling realization that they may lose their power to share data with each other post-Brexit. The industry group Tech UK has been holding regular meetings this year with a ‘Brexit advisory panel’, which includes which includes former UK civil service chief Gus O’Donnell, and Syed Kamall MEP, leader of the European Conservative and Reformist group in the European Parliament.

What are the concerns?

The immediate concern being raised by the group is the UK’s ability to share data laws with the rest of Europe post Brexit, and to ensure the free flow of information is continued as part of a mutual trade pact. As a possible solution Matt Hancock, UK digital affairs minister, has recently proposed incorporating the EU’s Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) into UK law to “ensure unhindered data flows after Brexit”. But will adding the GDPR into UK law be enough to ensure free flow of data between the UK and the EU?

Once the UK leaves the single market, it will need an ‘adequacy decision’ from the European Commission to ensure it conforms to privacy standards. This could cause problems for the UK – especially because of the controversial “Investigatory Powers Act” , which was adopted in 2016. The act has a lot of opposition among other European nations and within the UK, as it allows government agencies to keep copies of internet browser histories and phone records.

What needs to be done to reach a deal?

The UK would need to provide guarantees that it would protect citizens from surveillance, the sharing of personal data and it’s roll in the Five Eyes surveillance network between Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US. Even if the UK chooses to scrap the act, the rest of Europe will still need to ensure that the UK’s policy will protect the privacy of its citizens.

The UK remains confident that an adequate deal can be reached. MP Steve Baker told the Exiting the EU select committee “I would expect it (an adequacy decision) to be delivered. We want to get a deal on data sharing as part of the negotiated exit agreement.” With so much at stake for the UK’s digital economy, the pressure is on politicians to reach a deal and negotiate a mutual agreement as part of the Article 50 talks with Brussels. The idea of no deal being reached could cause major problems for the UK.

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