Brexit Implications for Data Privacy Unclear

The United Kingdom’s (UK) recent referendum has presented many questions for the future of data privacy and standards for corporations operating domestically and internationally. The Data Protection Act (DPA) is currently in force, but the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes effective in May 2018. Considering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty triggers a two-year timeline for a participant’s exit, the UK will likely still be an EU member when the new rules are implemented. Under the current legal framework, the GDPR would automatically apply to domestic UK law. Of course, that transfer would only last until the UK’s departure, which is likely to occur sometime in late 2018.

Following the completion of Brexit, the UK will have to decide whether to embark on drafting a new data privacy regime or preserve the GDPR. Maintaining the EU’s data rules affords the free flow and transfer of personal data within the bloc and compliance with the recently negotiated United States (US), EU Privacy Shield, intended to supplement the invalidated Safe Harbor.  To receive these privileges, however, the UK would need to join the European Economic Area.

While it may seem like adopting the GDPR is the obvious choice, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the UK minister that oversees data protection, has suggested that the UK is entertaining all of the possible options. She said, “We do not know how closely the UK will be involved with the EU system in future … On one hand if the UK remains within the single market EU rules on data might continue to apply fully in the UK. On other scenarios we will need to replace all EU rules with national ones.” She added the GDPR “was expected to take effect in the UK by 25 May 2018,” but the UK needs “to consider carefully what might be done either to replace it if and when it ceases to have effect or, instead, if in the event it never comes into force.”


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