Abandoning EU data protection rules would hurt trade, peers warn

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Jul 19, 2017
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If data protection standards are not kept in line with the EU’s after Brexit, Britain’s access to key Europe-wide databases could be limited

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Post-Brexit arrangements that cause friction in UK-EU data flows are likely to create a trade barrier that puts Britain at a competitive disadvantage, peers warned yesterday.

In a report on EU data protection rules against the backdrop of the UK leaving the bloc, the House of Lords EU committee warned that “any impediments to data sharing could hinder police and security co-operation”. The committee outlined the difficulties the UK might face in gaining access to a range of important databases such as the Schengen Information System and the European Criminal Records Information System, both of which rely on shared data protection standards.

Lawyers agreed that British ministers should be careful not to jettison useful elements of EU data protection rules. Ruth Boardman, a partner at the City of London law firm Bird & Bird, said that while the EU’s forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation was “not perfect” and there were “opportunities to alter things and do things better in the medium term”, trying to do so in the short term could be “hugely unsettling; it stops you planning, you have too much change and it risks impacting on adequacy”.

Stewart Room, the head of data protection legal services at the London office of the “big four” accountancy practice PwC, pointed out that on leaving the EU, the UK would be free to abandon the rule, which is set to take force next year. But, he said, “retaining it would be in national interest, both for UK citizens and UK-based data controllers and data processors. It’s likely we'll see that UK data protection policy after Brexit remain similar, to ensure we're operating on a level playing field with the rest of Europe”.

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