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"No evidence" that government understands the seriousness of Brexit for data protection

The ability to move data across borders has become central to both trade and security – but Brexit is threatening both. A report from the Lords Select Committee, ‘Brexit: the EU data protection package‘, the House of Lords reiterates that there is ‘no prospect of a clean break’ with Europe when it comes to data flows.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Police and Criminal Justice Directive (PCJD) are two new laws that will be brought into force next May, as part of the EU’s attempt to refresh its data protection rules. Although the UK will not be bound by parts of these rules after it leaves the Union, there will still be regulations to follow.

The Committee notes that the UK Government has stated that it wants to maintain unhindered data flows to the Union – but there is no detail on how that will be achieved. Crossbench peer and Committee chairman Michael Jay told The Financial Times “The government says the right things but we have had no evidence yet that it sees the potential seriousness of Brexit for data protection and is taking the necessary steps.”

Data flows enable as much as half of all trade in services (which represent 44 per cent of the UK’s total global exports). Post-Brexit arrangements that lead to greater data flow friction ‘could pose a non-tariff barrier to trade, putting the UK at a competitive disadvantage,’ the Committee noted.

Security cannot be forgotten. As a member of the EU, the UK has access to databases like the Schengen Information System and the European Criminal Records Information System; it is important to retain this access post-Brexit. The Committee says:

‘The UK could be put at a competitive disadvantage and the police could lose access to information and intelligence mechanisms… These are currently sourced through our membership of Eurojust and Europol and are vital for UK law enforcement.’

Speaking to the BBC on Radio 4, former Metropolitan Police chief Lord Condon said that it will be “much more difficult” for UK and EU police to share information after Brexit. This includes data like number plate information, fingerprints and DNA.

 


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