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Digital secretary calls on EU to grant UK data adequacy deal “as soon as possible”

The digital secretary, Jeremy Wright, has called on the European Commission to grant the UK an adequacy deal to secure UK-EU data flows in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

It’s feared that if the UK crashes out of the EU on 29 March, the bloc will refuse to let European data automatically pass into the UK. Experts have warned that this would make it harder for European companies to do business with the UK and, as a result, British suppliers less attractive.

Speaking to journalists at a DotEveryone conference in London on Thursday, Wright said the government will ensure that British data can pass into the EU uninterrupted in the case of a no-deal exit, “but that the decision about whether data can be transferred from the EU to the UK is one that the EU has to make. We urge them to do so as soon as possible.”

Experts are concerned that some members of the EU will attempt to block an adequacy deal over fears the UK’s controversial Investigatory Powers Act fails to protect European citizens’ data. The controversial and far-reaching legislation was ruled illegal by the EU Court of Justice in 2017 because the oversight of law enforcement access to personal data was deemed to be too weak.

“The government has been enthusiastic about the UK’s chances of securing an adequacy deal in the event of no-deal, but I don’t see that from my European colleagues and counterparts,” said the Data and Marketing Association’s public affairs chief Zach Thornton. To date, the EU has struck around a dozen adequacy deals with so-called third countries and some have taken several years to negotiate.

In the event that there is no adequacy deal following the UK’s departure, companies will be able to establish standard contractual clauses with those with which they want to share data.

“We’ve been following the EU’s data rules for a number of years and we don’t intend to throw all of those overboard when we leave so our expectation of data adequacy decision is reasonably high,” Wright added. “But we still need businesses to prepare for the possibility that there may be a gap between the point at which we leave the EU and the point at which the adequacy decision is granted.” Pressed on how long the gap might last, Wright added: “We can’t say.”