Labour warns government over Brexit “digital heart attack”.
The Government has today (1) confirmed that it has not yet started negotiations with the European Union on the flow of personal data post-Brexit. (2)
This shocking admission follows statements from the Brexit Secretary (4 September) that “real” progress was being made (3). A statement Dominic Raab MP repeated at European Scrutiny Select Committee the day after his speech to the House of Commons (5 September).
Today, all personally identifiable information that relates to EU citizens must comply with tough EU data protection rules. Following Brexit, the UK will need the stamp of approval from the EU that it meets EU standards. Without this approval – a so called “adequacy agreement” – data will no longer be able to flow between the EU and the UK.
This issue was debated in the House of Commons European Committee today due to significant concerns raised by the European Scrutiny Committee, with the support of other select committees such as the Science & Technology Select Committee.
Leading the debate on behalf of the European Scrutiny Select Committee, Labour MP Darren Jones (Bristol North West) – who is also a member of the Science & Technology Select Committee – set out the questions his committee wanted answered.
These questions focussed on preparations for a no deal Brexit, how data protection laws will apply during and after a transition period, and what implications this has for future trade deals.
During the debate, the Minister for Digital Margot James MP appeared unable to answer any of them.
Labour’s Shadow Digital Minister, Liam Byrne MP, said:
‘This is a stunning admission. Without data-sharing our exports will grind to a halt. Yet the minister couldn’t guarantee an agreement, couldn’t say if we need one for the implementation period after March, and didn’t appear to have a timetable for squaring the European Parliament, or the right EU authorities. This is incompetence on a simply staggering scale’.
Commenting, Mr Jones – who also chairs Labour’s digital think tank Labour Digital – said:
“This might seem like a niche issue, but data flows are vital to so many of the things we now rely on every day. Be it our smartphone apps, online services and shopping or smart goods or the delivery of public services and policing cross borders. It’s therefore vital that we’re able to continue sharing data between the EU and the UK, regardless of what happens with Brexit.”
“The purpose of the debate today was to seek reassurance from the Government that it had this in hand. Sadly, it appears it’s in even more of a mess than envisaged.”
For more information, please contact Liam Byrne at 020 7219 6953 or Darren Jones at 020 7219 2302.
- The audio of the debate of European Committee B can be listed to here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/76aa4c4c-479d-413f-b0f4-fb471f7e74d6
- 14:46 of the above recording (paraphrased):
Liam Byrne MP: “in the event of a no deal Brexit…will data flows continue?
Margot James MP: “I can’t give him an assurance that an adequacy agreement will be in place…the UK Government is ready to commence discussions on a future adequacy agreement even if the EU Commission has not indicated that it is ready to start such discussions. We are, if successful, in securing the transition period stand ready to begin preliminary discussions.”
3. Dominic Raab MP: “On the negotiations themselves, may I just reassure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that progress is real on data sharing…”. Link: http://bit.ly/2PgvaoE