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EU-UK Personal Data Transfers

Volume 698: debated on Thursday 1 July 2021

Following just over a year of constructive discussions, the European Union has rightly recognised the UK’s high data protection standards by formally adopting adequacy decisions for the UK. The completion of this process allows for the continued free flow of personal data between the EU and the UK. These decisions will minimise burdens for businesses and support continued co-operation between the EU and the UK, including helping our law enforcement authorities to keep our citizens safe.

We will approach our data relationship with the EU, as in other areas of our new relationship, as sovereign equals. This will include a full UK assessment of the EU under our own independent international transfer regime to ensure that it remains a safe destination for UK personal data. We will continue to engage with the EU as appropriate with a view to ensuring our reciprocal arrangements for free flow of personal data can remain in place on an ongoing basis.

We will do so while operating a fully independent UK framework. Rapid technological change in data-intensive sectors and three years’ experience of implementing GDPR have prompted lively debates about the future of data protection, including within the EU. We want our data protection law to remain fit for purpose, and to support the future objectives of the UK.

Maintaining personal data flows is important: people and organisations are now sharing more personal data more regularly and in greater quantities than ever. Data has allowed businesses to grow and transform, hospitals to help patients, scientists to accelerate groundbreaking research, and law enforcement authorities to keep the public safe. The covid-19 pandemic has shown that the use of data has never been more crucial in making vital decisions in public life.

The Government are committed to ensuring the UK can use data to drive innovation, the economy, trade, better government and more effective law enforcement and protection of public safety, without compromising security or privacy. We will design and operate a data regime that maintains high data protection standards while enabling transformative, creative, innovative and responsible data use to ensure that the benefits of the data revolution are felt by all people, in all places.

Maximising the opportunities from innovative use of data will also depend on better flow of data between international partners. Independent of the EU, the UK will promote the free flow of personal data across borders, including through ambitious new trade deals; new data adequacy agreements with some of the fastest growing economies; and more innovative transfer mechanisms, while ensuring that this data will be properly protected, including through effective regulatory co-operation. We will also explore wider global opportunities on data, seeking to increase the availability of data and minimise burdens on organisations seeking to tackle some of the most pressing international questions of our time, including climate change and prevention of disease.

With our progressive legal system, robust protection of individual rights, and an influential regulator, the UK is in a strong starting position. Our approach towards data in future will be forward thinking and innovative but, above all, it will be founded upon the democratic values of the rule of law and transparency to maintain our public trust and confidence.

I look forward to engaging with interested colleagues across the House on maximising the potential benefits of data use for the whole of the UK.