The European Commission ruled that the UK’s high data protection standards were “adequate” to maintain information flows. Eurocrats had threatened to permanently block British data because of fears over No10’s planned post-Brexit regulatory shake-up. The move will unlock billions of pounds for UK business that was previously jeopardised by EU intransigence.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden welcomed Brussels’ announcement after months of wrangling over Britain’s status.
He said: “I welcome the publication of these draft decisions which rightly reflect the UK’s commitment to high data protection standards and pave the way for their formal approval.
“Although the EU’s progress in this area has been slower than we would have wished, I am glad we have now reached this significant milestone following months of constructive talks in which we have set out our robust data protection framework.”
The Commission recommended to member states that they allow British businesses to send data to Continent unhindered by red tape.
It said Britain’s data protection rules were robust enough to allow to the smooth passage of information.
EU capitals will first have to sign off on the decision before it enters into force.
Top eurocrat Vera Jourova said: “Ensuring free and safe flow of personal data is crucial for business and citizens on both sides of the Channel.
“The UK has left the EU, but not the European privacy family.
“This is why we included clear and strict mechanisms in terms of both monitoring and review, suspension or withdrawal of such decisions, to address any problematic development of the UK system after the adequacy would be granted.”
Justice commissioner Didier Reynders added: “A flow of secure data between the EU and the UK is crucial to maintain close trade ties and cooperate effectively in the fight against crime.
“Today we launch the process to achieve that. We have thoroughly checked the privacy system that applies in the UK after it has left the EU.
“Now European Data Protection Authorities will thoroughly examine the draft texts. EU citizens’ fundamental right to data protection must never be compromised when personal data travel across the Channel. The adequacy decisions, once adopted, would ensure just that.”
Brussels said the decision would rely on Britain remaining aligned to EU data standards.
A senior EU official warned the Commission would retaliate against any “problematic divergences” from the bloc’s rulebook by moving to “terminate or suspend the decision”.
The decision was welcomed by British business chiefs.
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Julian David, of TechUK, said: “The European Commission’s decisions that the UK’s data protection regime offers an equivalent level of protection to the EU GDPR reflects the UK’s high data protection standards.
“Today’s decision is warmly welcomed by the tech sector which has been making clear the importance of a mutual data adequacy agreement since the day after the referendum.
“Receiving data adequacy, alongside the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, will set a solid foundation for digital trade with the EU, including strong non-discrimination clauses and positive data flows provisions, that will give businesses the confidence to invest.”