European Commission calls for free flow of data after Brexit

EC digital leader says EU must avoid “data nationalisation” after the UK leaves – but also warns EU states

The European Union (EU) institutions want data flows between the UK and Europe to continue post-Brexit just as badly as the UK does.

Speaking at an event on trans-European dataflows in Estonia last week, Andrus Ansip, the European Commission (EC) vice-president in charge of the Digital Single Market, criticised what he called “data protectionism”.

“Digital business is global business – we urgently need to address data localisation rules,” he said.

“Data is not only the basis of our digital future and prosperity, it is a valuable resource in itself. Keeping that resource unnecessarily stuck in national datacentres or in a certain geographic area means it cannot be used to its full potential. You could also call it data protectionism, or data nationalism.”

report on post-Brexit data protection from the House of Lords’EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee last week said there was “no prospect of a clean break” with Europe when it came to data flows.

“The committee was concerned by the lack of detail on how the government plans to maintain unhindered data flows post-Brexit,” said committee chairman Lord Jay.

In a rare show of agreement, that view is shared by senior officials in the European institutions.

But senior sources in the EC told Computer Weekly that there is, as yet, no clear indication what will happen after Brexit. One expert said: “It’s totally up to negotiations.”

Polish MEP Michal Boni, who was heavily involved in writing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the current drafting of the ePrivacy Regulation, said it was a “big problem”.

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