BUSINESS groups have welcomed the government’s new proposals to ensure data sharing continues with the EU after Brexit, but urged for more support for smaller firms to cope with incoming changes.
The UK government will set out its plans on Thursday for how the country will exchange data with the EU after leaving the bloc.
The new document proposes allowing data to continue to be exchanged to ensure ongoing competitiveness, innovation and job creation, it said in an announcement on Wednesday evening.
“In the modern world, data flows increasingly underpin trade, business and all relationships. We want the secure flow of data to be unhindered in the future as we leave the EU,” said digital minister Matt Hancock.
“So a strong future data relationship between the UK and EU, based on aligned data protection rules, is in our mutual interest.
“Our goal is to combine strong privacy rules with a relationship that allows flexibility, to give consumers and businesses certainty in their use of data.”
The UK’s digital economy was worth £118.4bn in 2015, according to the government. Any disruption to free-flowing data could be costly to both Britain and the EU, it said.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) welcomed the proposals but urged for more support for small business to understand upcoming changes to data laws.
“Many of these small businesses will be relieved that government is trying to avoid a regulatory ‘no man’s land’ by committing to keeping harmonised data protection standards,” said Mike Cherry, national chairman at the FSB.
“I believe that this a common sense approach that will allow smaller firms to continue preparing for the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) next spring.
“We know that many small businesses have concerns about the incoming GDPR and many are simply unaware of the scope of the changes. There is a clear and present danger that companies could inadvertently face a fine if action is not taken to provide support and guidance to help them properly prepare for data protection changes.”
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) called the paper “a step forward” in recognising the importance of ensuring the free flow of data to the UK economy.
“The strong alignment between British and European data standards opens the door to crafting a robust framework that enables the uninterrupted flow of data,” said Tom Thackray, CBI director of innovation.
“In the short-term, a seamless transition deal is necessary to protect the free flow of information and provide legal certainty to businesses and consumers. If no transition deal is agreed, the UK’s potential £240bn data economy is at risk of isolation.”