Brexit: David Frost on Theresa May's EU negotiations
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A spokesman for the Brussels-based EU executive announced the decision to reporters after eurocrats decided that Britain’s data protection regime is as robust as the bloc’s. The move is a big boost for cross-Channel business and crime-fighting efforts after Brexit. But the latest post-divorce agreement will feature an unprecedented “sunset clause” limiting its duration to just four years.
EU Justice commissioner Didier Reynders said: “After months of careful assessments, today we can give EU citizens certainty that their personal data will be protected when it is transferred to the UK. This is an essential component of our new relationship with the UK. It is important for smooth trade and the effective fight against crime.”
The Commission spokesman added: “Personal data can now flow freely from the European Union to the United Kingdom, where it benefits from essentially equivalent level of protection to that guaranteed under EU law.
“The UK’s data protection system continues to be based on the same rules that were applicable when the UK was a member state of the EU.
“Both adequacy findings, of course, include strong safeguards, such as a sunset clause, for the first time in an adequacy decision, which limits the duration of adequacy for four years.”
The adequacy decisions, which relate to the EU’s overarching General Data Protection Regulation and a directive on processing data connected with criminal offences, including victims, witnesses and suspects, will enter into force today.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “After more than a year of constructive talks it is right the European Union has formally recognised the UK’s high data protection standards. This will be welcome news to businesses, support continued cooperation between the UK and the EU and help law enforcement authorities keep people safe.”
A refusal by Brussels to maintain data flows could have cost the British economy as much as £1.6billion.
As a result of the bloc’s sunset clause, the agreement will need to be renegotiated once again in four years time.
EU officials are expected to keep a close eye on Britain’s plans to liberalise its data protection standards.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has commissioned a special task force to establish whether tweaks to the UK’s existing data transfer regimes could help deliver a Brexit boost.
But this is likely to spook eurocrats, who will insist they need to reexamine any changes made to Britain’s systems.
The Commission spokesman added: “We are, of course, very actively following developments in the UK.
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“As for all adequacy decisions, in case of any problematic developments that would negatively affect the level of protection of personal data, the Commission can decide at any point in time to suspend, terminate or amend the decision.
“This can be done immediately in cases of justified urgency.”
Currently, two-quarters of Britain’s international data flows are with the EU.
Brussels will hope to use this as leverage in any future talks if Downing Street opts to revamp its privacy standards in a bid to boost economic rewards from data.
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MEPs have called for a hardline stance to anything they deem to be de-regulation by the British authorities when it comes to handling sensitive data.
The EU Parliament wants the bloc to immediately suspend transfers of personal data to the UK if its demands aren’t met.
They are concerned that the UK’s surveillance rules and exemptions for immigrants require much more scrutiny from Brussels.
Today’s deal was struck before the end of a six-month transition period for continued data sharing drafted into the post-Brexit trade pact.
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