Tuesday

22nd May 2018

UK tech worried over post-Brexit data sharing

  • The sector's main immediate concern is that the UK's data laws remain harmonised with the EU's and that free flow of data is part of a future UK-EU trade pact. (Photo: European Union)

The prospect of being unable to transfer and share citizens' data with EU counterparts has troubled British businesses and police agencies since the June 2016 referendum.

Those concerns have become more acute since it became clear that the UK would leave the single market in 2019.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Theresa May, now prime minister, but home secretary at the time of the major push to keep phone and internet records (Photo: Consilium)

Since the start of 2017, industry group TechUK has been holding monthly meetings for its members with its 'Brexit advisory panel', which includes former UK civil service chief Gus O'Donnell, and Syed Kamall MEP, leader of the European Conservative and Reformist group in the European Parliament.

Their main immediate concern is that the UK's data laws remain harmonised with the EU's and that free flow of data is part of a future UK-EU trade pact.

In a step towards placating those fears, UK digital affairs minister Matt Hancock introduced a bill to implement the EU's Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) into UK law in September, stating that it would help "ensure unhindered data flows after Brexit".

But putting the GDPR into UK law isn't enough by itself to keep the data flowing.

Outside the single market, the UK will still need an 'adequacy decision' – the European Commission's approval of its data protection and privacy standards.

The main stumbling block is likely to be the UK's Investigatory Powers Act, adopted in 2016, and piloted by Theresa May in her former role as home secretary. Amongst its provisions, this controversial bill allows government agencies to monitor and keep copies of internet browser histories and phone records.

Poacher turned gamekeeper

Ironically, Brexit minister David Davis, then a backbench MP and civil liberties campaigner, was one of the chief opponents, challenging to it all the way to the European Court of Justice.

The European Court of Justice's ruling in the Max Schrems case on the EU-US 'Safe Harbor' agreement in 2015, which stated that the EU must protect its citizens from surveillance, makes the UK act particularly troublesome.

EU insiders say that means the UK would have to provide cast-iron guarantees about the forwarding of personal data, and the UK's role in the 'five eyes' intelligence and surveillance network with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.

Even then, without scrapping the Investigatory Powers Act, court challenges to the ECJ would be inevitable, a sizeable problem since Davis and his team insist that after Brexit the UK will not be subject to the Luxembourg court.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the Germans wanted a legal commitment that the UK government will not spy on European citizens," Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, director of European Centre for International Political Economy, told EUobserver.

"The adequacy decision is an assessment based on politics. It will be a negotiation, and you pay for it," said Makiyama.

For its part, UK ministers remain outwardly confident that a data deal can be done.

"I would expect it (an adequacy decision) to be delivered," Steve Baker told the Exiting the EU select committee on October 26. "We want to get a deal on data sharing as part of the negotiated exit agreement," he added.

That suggests that the Commission's responsibility for giving an adequacy decision could be superseded by the Article 50 talks with the EU-27.

However, recent precedent suggests that the prospects of data and e-commerce being part of a speedily agreed UK-EU trade deal are not promising.

The EU's Privacy Shield agreement with the US took two-and-a-half years to negotiate, and France and Germany are opposing attempts to include e-commerce and data flows in EU trade pacts.

France is by far the leading axis on privacy, a Commission official told EUobserver.

So, what's the alternative, or will the UK's £240 billion a year digital sector simply be hit by a 'no deal' Brexit?

Nor does the Exiting the EU department want to publish its assessment of the likely cost of having to replace the EU's agencies, fearing that making this public could harm its negotiating strategy in the Article 50 talks with Michel Barnier.

"We do not want to send signals that we are considering alternatives," said Baker. "The work is being done".

That suggests that the government is not prepared or preparing for a 'no deal'.

Privacy rules to create jobs, EU data chief says

Giovanni Buttarelli, the European data protection supervisor, says e-privacy reforms open up new job opportunities for small businesses in Europe and asks EU lawmakers to endorse the proposal in a vote on Thursday.

EU gives thumbs up to US data pact

Commission gives 'thumbs-up' to controversial Privacy Shield deal with US on data sharing after a year's operation - but notes room for improvement.

Focus

Germany tells EU to slow down on new cyber rules

'First comes first', said a German government agency official, meaning that previously agreed rules on cybersecurity should be implemented before discussing the EU commission's new proposal.

Focus

EU takes step towards free flow of data

Non-personal data should be allowed to cross EU borders without restrictions, with an exemption for security reasons, diplomats meeting in the Council of the EU have agreed.

Opinion

Cybersecurity and defence for the future of Europe

Cybersecurity is a core element of Europe's strategy to become a global leader in digital technologies and a secure place for its citizens, write EU commissioner Jyrki Katainen and expert Jarno Limnell.

News in Brief

  1. German prosecutor orders Puigdemont to Spain
  2. EU to split trade and investment agreements
  3. EU to start trade talks with Australia and New Zealand
  4. Unknown professor proposed as Italy's new prime minister
  5. 154 German economists warn against eurozone reform
  6. Growing €176bn EU trade deficit with China
  7. All 4.8m Swedish homes get 'war preparation' leaflet
  8. Trump warns Nato allies' low budgets will be 'dealt with'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. US asks EU to go after Russian and African villains
  2. Facebook threatened with removal from EU-US data pact
  3. Defence firms 'reap benefits' of their advice to EU
  4. Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund
  5. Nordics could be first carbon-negative region in world
  6. Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK
  7. Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny
  8. Bulgarian PM: No asylum reform without stronger border

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight