The government plans to ensure that there is “unhindered” data flow between the UK and the rest of the European Union after Brexit, Matt Hancock, the minister for digital economy has said.
Matt Hancock said that the UK will aim for ‘unhindered’ data flows once the UK leaves the EU – Photo credit: PA
Giving evidence to the House of Lords Home Affairs EU Sub-Committee about the General Data Protection Regulation – which will come into force in May 2018 – Hancock said that the abililty for data to flow between the UK and EU unhindered was important for law enforcement, trade and business.
Because the UK will still be in the EU when the GDPR comes into force, organisations in the country will have to meet the conditions of the new regulation – but it is not clear what the arrangements will be once after Brexit.
When questioned on this, Hancock would not offer any concrete answers on the policy agreements – saying that the UK needed to “protect its negotiating stance” – saying instead that the “goal [of unhindered data flows] is very clear” but that there “are many ways to skin any cat”.
However, he also said that the government had set out its intention to implement the GDPR “in full” before the UK leaves the union because it is “a good piece of legislation in and of itself” and because it is an “important part” of securing unhindered data flow between the UK and EU after Brexit.
He also stressed that the UK and EU were “starting from a position of harmonisation, not a position of difference” on data protection, adding: “The reason there are so many questions around data protection is that the EU is moving its own domestic law at the same time as we’re going to Aricle 50 process. We have to make sure we look at the whole of that.“
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The minister was also asked about the resource implications of implementing the GDPR, to which he said that the Department for Culture, Media and Support was “working very hard, but we’re fully resourced to deliver GDPR inside government”.
He acknowledged that there would be resource implications for organisations outside government, as the new regulation makes more requirements in terms of documentation and information management, but that his view was that those requirements “are consistent with best practice for handling data anyway”.
Discussing the role of the UK’s data watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office. Hancock said that he didn’t foresee any great changes before leaving the EU – but that beyond that he was “sure it will evolve”, noting it had changed a lot in the past two decades.
“The ICO needs to keep up to speed with developments, and I’m sure that it will,” Hancock said.