UK and EU agree a path forward to achieve the free flow of personal data
The UK is a major data hub, while the UK makes up around 3% of global GDP, 11.5% of global cross-border data flows pass through the UK, 75% of this traffic is with the EU. The flow of personal data is also vital for EU based companies with a recent DIGITAL EUROPE survey showing 6 in 10 transfer data to the UK.
Since the outcome of the 2016 referendum techUK has highlighted the importance of the flow of personal data between the UK and the EU to the tech sector, but also to the wider economy.
Personal data which is defined in the GDPR as “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person,” is included in almost all forms of business tasks from emails and travel bookings to the development of AI driven products.
When the U.K. was a Member State of the EU shared rules on data protection allowed for the free flow of personal data between the UK, EU Member States and EEA countries. This meant individuals, companies and public authorities could transfer data across the EEA as if it were a single state.
However now that the UK has left the EU this intrinsic right to move data freely is no longer available. The UK is currently being assessed by the European Commission to determine whether UK data protection rules offer adequate levels of personal data protection for EU citizens data which transferred to the UK. If found adequate this would allow personal data to flow freely, similar to when the UK was a member of the EU. You can see a full explainer on data, adequacy and the UK-EU future relationship here.
In order to fully complete the process, a decision by the European Commission that the UK is adequate needs to be scrutinised by the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the European Parliament. The bridging mechanism of up to six months should be sufficient and allow the UK and EU to complete this important process that is vital for businesses on both sides of the channel.
During the bridge period personal data can continue to flow without additional requirements.
After the end of the transition period the UK will have its own independent data protection policy. However, while the adequacy process is being finalised during the bridge period some UK data protection rules cannot change, otherwise the assessment may have to be stopped.
techUK believes the full control over data protection policy presents the UK with an opportunity to lead a global discussion supporting continued high standards of data protection while also identifying opportunities to improve data sharing and innovation between our international partners, including the EU.
This will require careful thought and a long-term strategy. The Government has just completed consulting on the National Data Strategy and we look forward to working with them to develop and implement an ambitious programme for the tech sector in 2021.
Commenting on the agreement of a up to six-month bridge period to reach a data adequacy decision techUK CEO Julian David said:
“techUK and the wider tech sector have been highlighting the importance of a data adequacy agreement since the day after the 2016 referendum.”
“Data adequacy is so important, not just because of the economic costs of failing to reach an agreement, estimated to be around £1.6bn to the UK economy, but because of the high level of integration between UK and EU tech companies, a partnership which this year has helped achieve a record $41bn invested in UK and European companies.”
“It is vital that the UK Government and European Commission work at speed to finalise the process in order to give businesses certainty and to allow both the UK to move onto a new phase of collaboration with industry and stakeholders in the development of data policies that supports high standards and the innovative use of data to improve public services and the growth of the tech sector.”
“The bridging period will also allow the UK Government to work with the sector to finalise any new tools available to UK companies that will complement a data adequacy agreement with the EU to support access to global data flows.”
You can find further details on the process for data adequacy and its importance to the UK and the EU in techUK’s 2017 report, No Interruptions Options for the Future of UK-EU data sharing relationship.
You can watch here a recent discussion on Data After Brexit with the Institute for Government and sponsored by techUK.
Julian David is the CEO of techUK, the Digital Technology Trade Association.
Julian leads techUK's 60 strong team in representing over 800 member companies, comprising global and national champions and more than 500 SMEs. He is a member of the UK Government and Industry Cyber Growth Partnership, the Digital Economy Council and the Department of International Trade’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group. He is also the Vice President for National Trade Associations, on the Executive Board of DIGITALEUROPE, Vice President representing Europe on the board of WITSA the Worldwide IT Association, and a member of the board of the Health innovation Network, the South London Academic Health Science Network.
Alice leads all of techUK’s activities across brand, marketing and communications as well as our member engagement and business development teams.
She works closely with the market and policy teams to define how best to engage with members and stakeholders.
Previously, Alice led techUK’s communications strategy building brand awareness through an ambitious media relations and wider communications programme. She has international experience building corporate, consumer and business campaigns for both mainstream and niche technology brands.
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Neil Ross leads on techUK’s economic policy as well as working with members to ensure the best possible outcome for the tech sector in the future relationship between the UK and EU.
Neil joined techUK in 2019 to lead on techUK’s response to Brexit and the UK-EU trade negotiations as well as working on techUK’s economic policy.
Since then he has led on economic policy covering the UK’s industrial strategy, R&D policy, digital adoption and UK data policy.
This work involves regularly engaging with UK and Devolved Government Ministers, senior civil servants and Members of the UK’s Parliaments aiming to support government work with industry to make the UK the best place to start, scale and develop technology companies.