REUTERS | Luke MacGregor

Data protection: will Britannia waive the rules?

Matthew Hancock MP, the Minister of State for Digital and Culture, will be giving a keynote speech on Brexit and the implications for the UK data protection landscape next Tuesday, 8 November, at Practical Law’s Future of Data Protection Forum.  I look forward with interest to what the minister will have to say.

Whilst lawyers and privacy professionals will have taken a smidgen of comfort from the confirmation given by Secretary of State, Karen Bradley MP, at the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee on 24 October 2016, that the UK will be opting in to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), this was not much of a revelation.  Events at the High Court yesterday have underlined the constitutional complexity of invoking Article 50.  Even when the infamous article is triggered, in political and logistical terms, a quick withdrawal from the EU seems impossible.  We should assume the UK will be a member of the EU when the GDPR, directly effective in all member states, becomes applicable in May 2018.

In-house lawyers and their colleagues, if they are not already doing so, should get ready for compliance with the GDPR and, on this note, our freely-available article also published in the September issue of PLC Magazine, General Data Protection Regulation: a game changer, provides an excellent overview.

Indeed, the ICO has consistently encouraged businesses not to allow Brexit to distract them from the task of GDPR compliance.

We should all keep our eyes peeled for the ICO’s revised timetable which will set out its areas of guidance to be focusing on for the next six months.

The Article 29 Working Party is also due to issue further guidance to follow up its action plan statement from earlier this year.

Ms Bradley’s statement does leave the door open for the post-Brexit world.  She said the government will:

“[look] later at how best we might be able to help British business with data protection while maintaining high levels of protection for members of the public”. 

A nod and a wink to a lighter touch regulatory regime post-Brexit?

It will be very interesting to see if Mr Hancock, with his remit centred on the digital world, shines any further light.  I look forward to reporting back.

Rob Beardmore

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