Last week, the UK Government and the European Commission agreed that data protection should be on the list of topics to be discussed as part of the future UK-EU Partnership.
It was therefore timely that techUK headed to Sweden this week to begin raising the importance of the continued free flow of data between the UK and the EU post-Brexit. techUK's CEO, Julian David, and Policy Manager for Data Protection and Digital Single Market, Jeremy Lilley, went to Sweden in order to clearly demonstrate the importance of this issue to not just UK companies but EU companies too.
This has been a core theme of techUK's advocacy on data flows since the referendum result, demonstrating that data underpins the vast majority of the economy in both the UK and the EU. Data flows are not just a UK issue, or just a tech issue. They are crucial for the operation of the entire European economy across all sectors and organisations. Losing the frictionless flow of data would lead to substantial and significant implications for businesses in the EU looking to continue doing business with the UK post-Brexit. Given the UK will still be an important market for European businesses this impact cannot be understated.
techUK was therefore delighted to be joined in Stockholm by its Swedish counterpart IT&Telekomföretaken, who represent the tech industry in Sweden. We were also honoured to be hosted for a fascinating seminar by Britain's Ambassador to Sweden, David Cairns.
Photo (from left to right): David Mothander, Director General, IT&Telekomföretaken; David Cairns, Britain's Ambassador to Sweden; Julian David, CEO techUK.
The seminar highlighted the interconnected nature of the UK-Swedish trade relationship and the importance of data flows to underpin that trade. As mentioned during the seminar, a huge number of Swedish businesses have opted to export into the UK market and they want to be able to continue to do so. The free flow of data between the UK and the EU will help achieve that.
We were glad to be joined at the event by Oscar Wåglund Söderström, Head of Trade Agreements at Sweden's National Board of Trade, who have produced a comprehensive report on Brexit and the implications for UK- Swedish trade. It was encouraging to see the National Board of Trade recognise the need for frictionless data flows to continue and that they have made this clear to the Swedish Government.
Following a long period of education and discussion, the UK Government have rightly been clear about what they will be asking for in Brexit negotiations on data. The UK is seeking a bespoke model which would see adequacy agreed, facilitating the free flow of data, as well as a continued role for the UK Information Commissioner on the European Data Protection Board. techUK very much support those aims and a key part of our discussions in Sweden were focused on highlighting the benefits to the EU of retaining the ICO's involvement on EU data protection matters.
A lot of important issues were raised during our trip to Sweden and there was a clear recognition of the need to maintain the free flow of data between the Sweden (and therefore the EU) and the UK. It is encouraging to see a country like Sweden, across industry, diplomacy and government actively engaging on this important cross-cutting economic issue. techUK aims to encourage other EU Member States to do the same, as well as making the case for continued data flows in Brussels with the European Commission too.
If you would like to find out more about techUK's work on data protection and international data transfers, please contact Jeremy Lilley.