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UK.gov: Snoop laws not 'significant' obstacle to EU data protection talks

Digi minister confident of adequacy decision post-Brexit

By Rebecca Hill

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The UK's Snooper's Charter should not be a "significant" obstacle to data protection negotiations with the European Union, the government has said.

In a letter (PDF) to peers, digital minister Matthew Hancock reiterated that the UK was still aiming to gain an adequacy-plus model on data protection after the UK leaves the bloc.

Hancock was writing in response to the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee's report on post-Brexit data protection, which pushed the government to ensure the UK didn’t fall off a data "cliff edge".

The report also raised concerns that, once the UK leaves the EU, it will no longer benefit from the exemptions member states can use.

Specifically, national security legislation will be taken into account when an adequacy decision is made - meaning the UK’s controversial Investigatory Power’s Act will be scrutinised.

However, Hancock brushed this off, saying that the government "is confident that UK national security legislation should not present a significant obstacle to data protection negotiations".

He also used the opportunity to reiterate that the UK wanted an "enhanced mechanism" that goes beyond existing adequacy models for third countries.

The extras the UK wants - first outlined in a brief document published in August - include that the Information Commissioner’s Office would have an ongoing role in regulatory discussions.

When the peers' report was published, committee chairman Michael Jay acknowledged that this might not be straightforward – but again Hancock’s response was bullish.

He said that, "given the ICO's reputation", its continued participation would be "invaluable" to both sides.

Similarly, Hancock said that an early agreement to recognise each other's laws – another added extra the UK needs in order to prevent confusion on exit day – would be in the interests of both parties.

Hancock also pointed to the Data Protection Bill, which is making its way through parliament at the moment – having had its first Committee stage hearing last night – as evidence of the UK's commitment to putting EU laws on the UK books.

That debate saw peers drop a number of amendments that opponents argued would put the UK's push for an adequacy decision at risk - including a controversial proposal to exempt businesses with fewer than five employees from the finalised act. ®

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