Doubt clouds future of UK’s post-Brexit data protection rules

Minister forecasts period of uncertainty with Brexit negotiations yet to begin

Uncertainty continues over the future of the UK's data protection policies following Brexit, a government minister has admitted.

Saying "for a period the future will be more uncertain", Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe said EU rules on data protection could apply fully in the UK if it remains in the single market, or the UK may replace all EU rules with its own if it does not stay.

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"Currently it seems unlikely we will know the answer to these questions before the withdrawal negotiations get under way," the minister for data protection told the Privacy Laws & Business annual conference yesterday.

Her comments come after the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) advised that incoming data protection rules devised by the EU will not change despite Brexit.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is due to become law in all EU states in May 2018, and the UK would have to provide adequate rules on a par with GDPR if it wants to trade with EU countries, the ICO said.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe gave a similar assessment yesterday, saying: "If any country wishes to share data with EU Member States, or for it to handle EU citizens' data, they will need to be assessed as providing an adequate level of data protection. This will be a major consideration in the UK's negotiations going forward."

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Privacy Shield

Further uncertainty related to how an incoming EU-US data transfer agreement, dubbed Privacy Shield, could affect the UK.

Introduced after the EU ruled Safe Harbour was not providing adequate protection for data when transferred outside of the bloc to the US, Brussels is due to decide whether or not to approve Privacy Shield in the coming weeks.

"The UK government has been urging both the Commission and the US to conclude negotiations on this new legally robust adequacy decision, in order to provide clarity to the businesses that transfer data from the EU to the US, and to reassure citizens that their rights will be upheld in the new agreement," Baroness Neville-Rolfe said.

She concluded: "We need to unleash economic dynamism to reverse any Brexit downturn by getting people to pull together under a new Prime Minister and by finding the right regulatory and trade arrangements in Europe and internationally."

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