The UK government is being put under increasing pressure to confirm whether BREXIT data flow between the UK and EU will be allowed to remain uninterrupted post-Brexit. Tech industry stakeholders were hopeful that a formal agreement would be outlined in the latest draft of the government Brexit withdrawal text. Published on the 19th of March 2018 the withdrawal agreement was intended to provide guidance on how discussions between the EU and UK are progressing ahead of the UK leaving the EU on the 29th of March.
The 129-page document did outline some of the terms that will come into effect once the transition period begins. The document did not however confirm whether or not the UK will be classified as a ‘third state’ as far as data flows are concerned. If the UK is considered to be a third state between the 29th of March 2019 and 31st December 2020, when the transitions period ends, an adequacy agreement will need to be drawn up which will help to ensure that the free BREXIT data flow between the EU and UK can continue during this period.
Rising concerns over Brexit data flow
The lack of even initial negotiations on data, now the lifeblood of the digital economy representing hundreds of billions of pounds of annual trade between both sides, has raised warnings that the U.K.’s focus on tech in its post-Brexit plans may run into problems if it can’t retain access to EU data.
The deputy CEO of TechUK highlighted the tech industry’s concern regarding the current lack of a formal agreement that allows the free movement of data throughout the transition period. The importance of this free movement of data for trade was emphasised by the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport and was highlighted as something the government was committed to ensuring remains open for post-BREXIT data flow.
This lack of clarity surrounding during and post-BREXIT data flow is a concern for the wider economy as a whole, far beyond the tech sector. It is argued that although this may not be an issue for many industries currently, if the free flows of data were impeded following Brexit this would increase the time and money companies would have to spend resolving issues concerned with the free movement of data.
Brexit data flow Timescales
It took almost three years for the EU to reach an agreement with the U.S. for a similar data transfer deal. Japan’s pending data agreement with Brussels — an easier negotiation because Tokyo has similar data protection standards as the EU — is expected to take 18 months.
EU officials said Britain’s existing involvement in the bloc’s privacy standards made the Japanese timeline more likely than the lengthy negotiations with the U.S.
Finally, EU officials say Britain has yet to lay out what it wants from such a data-flow deal, and such discussions must wait until officials have hammered out how the U.K. will leave the bloc.