On March 5th, the Data Protection Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons. It will now pass to the committee stage where it will be scrutinised by a cross party committee of MPs. The Bill is about governing how data is used in the UK.
The EU’s, GDPR, General Data Protection Regulation, comes into effect in May and this sweeping new regulation must be implemented in the UK. Britain will have to show it is in step with Brussels regulation after Brexit in order to keep trading with the EU. This is where the Data Protection Bill comes in. It is effectively one part of Britain’s argument to the EU for an agreement to continue the free flow of data between the UK and the EU once Britain leaves the EU. Post Brexit, it will have to implement a new agreement
According to a UK government position paper last summer data transfers between the EU and the UK are worth billions of pounds in trade and 75% of the UK’s data flows are with EU countries. EU rules dictate that personal data collected from the EU can only be transferred to a ‘third country’ when an adequate level of protection is guaranteed, “adequacy” is to show its data protection standards are in synch with Brussels and will continue to be when it leaves the EU.
Theresa May addressed this issue in her Mansion House Speech insisting she wanted “more than just an adequacy agreement” on data but also promised a degree of “domestic flexibility” to ensure that the UK’s regulatory environment could “respond nimbly and ambitiously to new developments” post Brexit.
The EU issued a notice to stakeholders in January indicating companies should consider how to get ready for transfer of data to a ‘third country’. The GDPR puts new obligations on companies and public bodies, such as charities, that collect data whilst giving new rights to consumers over their data.
However, the UK government has justified a clause, dubbed the Henry V111 powers, that would give ministers the power to alter the application of GDPR – including adding or varying derogations – as giving it the “flexibility” to deal with changing circumstances.