The dispute over Northern Ireland is far from resolved, as the next Brexit dispute between London and Brussels looms: the UK government wants to break with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) . London announced on Thursday that it would scrap the core content of the controversial rules. Instead, there should be a new law with less bureaucratic regulations. “Now that we have left the EU, I am determined to seize the opportunity and develop a leading data policy that will pay Brexit dividends for individuals and businesses,” said Culture Minister Oliver Dowden in a press release.
For the UK government, the proposed new data protection law means the first major departure from EU rules since the trade agreement with Brussels was signed in December 2020. London wants to reduce the bureaucratic burden on businesses and hope it will stimulate growth. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Dowden spoke of “turbo charging” the economy. The minister wants to get rid of “unnecessary” regulations and focus on “how we can protect people’s privacy while being as low key as possible”.
As an example of why EU data protection rules aren’t working from his perspective, Dowden cited a case at the Church of England. According to Dowden, she warned in June that churches would be barred from sending congregational letters to advertise upcoming flea markets because it could qualify as marketing and therefore would require recipients’ prior consent.
London believes many cookie banners are ‘unnecessary’
From the UK government’s perspective, small businesses and charities in particular have problems with the current rules. Many of them are overwhelmed by the sheer number of mandatory exams, Dowden said. He added, “We shouldn’t expect exactly the same from a small family business as we do from a large social media company.”
London also wants to abolish “unnecessary” cookie banners, that is, notifications that appear when you visit a website in order to obtain consent to the storage of personal data. If the UK government succeeds, cookies that pose a high risk to privacy will continue to require consent. Many cookie banners, however, are “unnecessary” and should therefore disappear, it is said in London.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Dowden assured that there would be “no reason” for the EU to “claim that we have somehow watered down privacy.” It is precisely this promise that the European Commission will examine as soon as the legislative proposal is published. This should happen sometime in September.
Brussels threatens to repeal decisions
As of Thursday, the Brussels authority threatened consequences if the new British rules were lower than the EU level. A spokesperson for the commission stressed that the authority can suspend, terminate or modify current adequacy decisions at any time. “If there is a justified emergency, it can be done immediately,” he said.
Adequacy decisions regulate that personal data can flow unimpeded from the EU to the UK. The prerequisite for this is a level of protection applicable there which is equivalent to that of the EU. If the Commission effectively repeals these rulings, many UK businesses could face costly bureaucracy if they wish to continue transmitting data across the Channel. Until now, Brussels had no reason to issue this threat, because during the Brexit negotiations, London had promised to continue to apply EU rules first.
Now the UK intends to enter into data protection agreements on its own with third countries to facilitate cross-border data traffic. It’s not just about online banking and shopping, it’s also about working together on law enforcement. Agreements are planned with the United States, Australia, Colombia, Singapore, South Korea and Dubai. Going forward, London also wants to negotiate with the world’s fastest growing economies, such as India, Brazil, Kenya and Indonesia.
Dowden criticized the fact that the EU had “not budged” for the past 20 years and had only reached an agreement with 13 countries during that period. “I think we can go much further and faster”, said the British Minister.