UK plans close co-operation with Europe on data after Brexit

The UK Government is hoping it can fast-track negotiations with the EU over the flow of information across borders as it looks to reassure businesses.

The Government has set out plans it hopes will reassure businesses that the flow of information across borders will not be disrupted after Brexit.

In the latest paper on the UK’s relationship with the EU after it leaves, the Government says it wants to ensure individuals have control over and transparency on how their personal data is used and that it is protected from misuse with robust safeguards. It points out that, upon the UK leaving the EU, the country’s data protection rules will be aligned with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

“We want the flow of data to be unhindered in the future as we leave the EU,” said minister for digital Matt Hancock, according to Reuters.

“A strong future data relationship between the UK and EU, based on aligned data protection rules, is in our mutual interest.”

The data economy was estimated to be worth around €272bn to the EU in 2015, or around 2% of GDP, with that expected to rise to €643bn by 2020 or 3% of GDP. In the UK it is thought to be worth around £118.4bn, meaning any disruptions would be costly both to Britain and Europe.

“Data flows between the UK and the EU are crucial for our shared economic prosperity and for wider cooperation,” says the paper. “It is therefore essential that as part of the UK’s future partnership with the EU, we agree arrangements that allow for free flows of data to continue, based on mutual trust in each other’s high data protection standards.”

READ MORE: ‘Free movement of data is key post-Brexit’

The government is keen to emphasis its leading position in the digital space, which it believes will allow it to set up special arrangements with the EU. The bloc already has data arrangements with 12 countries including Argentina, New Zealand, Israel and Switzerland, but these typically take at least 18 months to put in place.

The UK is hoping it can fast-track those negotiations because it is planning new data laws that almost exactly mirror the EU GDPR, set to come into force in May 2018. These include a wider definition of public information and demand that businesses are more transparent about the data they are collecting and how it will be used.

“The UK starts from an unprecedented point of alignment with the EU. In recognition of this, the UK wants to explore a UK-EU model for exchanging and protecting personal data that could build on the existing adequacy model by providing sufficient stability for businesses, public authorities and individuals,” says the paper.

The move has been welcomed by the industry. Chris Combemale, CEO of the DMA group, says: “The UK’s data-driven creative industry is already a global leader and unfettered access to the digital single market is important to its continued success. Therefore, we welcome the government’s announcement and commitment to protecting the free flow of data between the UK and EU post-Brexit.”

The paper is the latest in a series aimed at moving the negotiations with the EU on. Previous papers have looked at issues including laws, the Ireland-Northern Ireland border and customs.

Separately, London major Sadiq Khan has appointed the first chief digital officer for the city. Theo Blackwell, who previously worked at startup accelerator Public Group, will be responsible for leading London digital transformation agenda, building support for technology and data-led approaches to service delivery and promoting partnerships between public, private and community sectors.

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