End to ‘unhindered’ EU data sharing threatens law enforcement, claim Lords

Cross-border police cooperation could be at risk if no deal is struck to ensure adequate intelligence sharing post-Brexit, according to cross-party peers.

Jul 18, 2017

Cross-border police cooperation could be at risk if no deal is struck to ensure adequate intelligence sharing post-Brexit, according to cross-party peers. A House of Lords report has criticised the “lack of detail” in plans regarding how current data-sharing arrangements will be maintained once the UK leaves the EU. The document, published by the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee on Tuesday (July 18), recommends securing an ‘adequacy decision’ confirming that data protection standards will continue to match those in Europe. However, the committee raised concerns that EU standards could evolve after Brexit, forcing the UK to align with rules it no longer takes part in setting. According to committee chair Lord Michael Jay, the volume of data shared across international borders rose 18-fold between 2005 and 2012. “The maintenance of unhindered data flows is therefore crucial, both for business and for effective police cooperation,” he said. “The committee was concerned by the lack of detail on how the Government plans to maintain unhindered data flows post-Brexit. It was concerned, too, by the risk that EU and UK data protection rules could diverge over time when the UK has left the EU.” Three quarters of the UK’s cross-border data sharing is conducted with EU countries. After leaving, the UK will no longer have access to measures including the General Data Protection Regulation, the Police and Criminal Justice Directive, the EU-US Privacy Shield and the EU-US Umbrella Agreement. The Government has stressed it “will seek to maintain the stability of data transfers” with the EU and its member states once the UK formally leaves in 2019. However, the Home Office has been unable to clarify how this will be achieved, with counter-extremism minister Baroness Williams claiming it is “too early to say what the future arrangements might look like”. The committee’s preferred option – an adequacy decision – would ensure that data protection standards are of a sufficient quality to allow continued intelligence sharing with the EU. Adequacy decisions can only be taken for non-EU countries, making it difficult to have such arrangements in place at the moment the UK leaves. Without a transitional deal, the report claims that the lack of tested fall-back options could impede police cooperation with EU member states. The committee believes the UK may find itself held to higher standards after leaving as the EU will consider all areas of its data protection framework, including national security legislation, when assessing its standards. These laws are currently not examined as an EU treaty exempts national security from being considered by the European Court of Justice. As well as securing a transitional data-sharing deal, the report recommends the Government maintain a continuing role for the Information Commissioner’s Office on the European Data Protection Board. A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: “As part of plans for the UK’s exit from the EU, we are considering carefully how best to maintain our ability to share, receive and protect data with EU member states. “We want to secure a strong agreement which provides for continued free flows of personal data between the EU and UK. “The Government is considering all the options on the most beneficial way of ensuring that the UK’s data protection regime continues to build a culture of data confidence and trust, that safeguards citizens and supports businesses in the global economy.”

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