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So where does Brexit leave data sovereignty?

2016 was an astonishing year, obviously; From Brexit to Bowie there was an unexpected and depending on your standpoint a difficult event almost every month, crowned by the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the American presidency.

2017 will be the year in which the practicalities of the decisions taken will come into sharp focus. One area of particular concern will be data sovereignty. A survey from Vanson Bourne recently suggested that 86 per cent of respondents felt it was important to locate their data in the UK. The question is why, and a supplementary issue is just how happy future trading partners will be about that.

What is data sovereignty?

The concept is simple to grasp for non-specialists. It simply means that your data is covered by the legislation of the country in which it resides. This was never a problem when everything was on-premise; a British company would have its data on premise, a French company’s data would be in France and soforth.

The cloud has put an end to all of that comfort. Once your information is offsite, few users will understand exactly where it resides; much less will they appreciate that business data might be dotted around the globe depending on where it’s been cheapest to store it without losing compliance.

Some industries have special rules in place. In the UK, for example, the law Act stipulates a number of things, such as the need to have data stored in the UK if it is financially sensitive.

Brexit and sovereignty

Brexit essentially takes any agreement the UK may have with other countries about data sovereignty, any agreements over access we’ve made as an EU member state, and shreds it. Assuming the Great Repeal Bill goes ahead, in which every EU law is adopted immediately into the UK with an identical one and then the next goodness knows how long is spent swapping them out for fresh British versions, there should be no impact immediately. Longer term it is impossible to tell.

However, IT professionals will need to understand that there will be repercussions of some sort over Brexit. Check your software licenses; you’ll find the vast majority, if not all of them, grant use of the software to companies working within EU member states rather than the UK. Nobody is saying the software companies are going to snatch them back; however, there’s going to have to be an awful lot of redrafting between now and when we actually leave.