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By Ali Qassim
Companies should take heart that the post-Brexit U.K. will be in a strong position to continue personal data transfers with the European Union, government officials and attorneys say.
Once it leaves the EU, the U.K. will enjoy a “unique position” as a third country seeking data transfers with the EU, given that, unlike other non-EU countries, it will “have fully implemented EU privacy rules,” Baroness Susan Williams, a Minister of State for the Home Office, said April 26.
U.K. companies have numerous concerns related to the impending departure from the EU after decades in the economic and political bloc. Reassurances that they won’t be cut off from being able to freely transfer personal data with their former country partners means one less worry.
Regardless of Brexit, the U.K. is preparing to implement the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect May 2018. The U.K. could be out of the EU by March 29, 2019.
Williams was unable, however, to specify what policy options a future U.K. government would take to minimize disruption to EU-U.K. data transfers for law enforcement purposes.
For U.K.-based businesses, it is important to know under what adequacy framework they are going to operate, post-Brexit, so they can best respond to data requests from EU law enforcement and regulatory authorities.
Asked by the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee in an April 26 evidence session whether the U.K. should push for an adequacy agreement with the EU to provide companies with post-Brexit certainty, Williams said that was “certainly an option,” but said she was unable to “say in the context of other options available”.
Vinod Bange, partner and head of the data protection team, at Taylor Wessing, told Bloomberg BNA April 27 that “despite the background uncertainty, the impact for companies is relatively clear.”
He said that “if the negotiations between the EU and the U.K. are of similar ilk to what is already in place for a select number of countries, it would allow free movement of personal data to the U.K. from Europe.”
“Any new data protection regime that is issued” as a result of these negotiations “is likely to include a toolkit of the same mold to what is already in place under current data protection laws—namely the EU-U S. Privacy Shield” data transfer program, Bange said. “In essence, the status quo is likely to remain.”
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