Brexit will trash UK’s world-leading data sector

by Dana Polatin-Reuben | 04.09.2018

Imagine a sector projected to add £241 billion to our economy between 2015 and 2020; representing nearly 5% of economic output and growing; and which showcases UK knowhow on a global stage. Now, imagine the UK voluntarily forfeiting its say on the international laws governing that sector, while at the same time pursuing policies which will clip its wings before reaching its full potential.

At any other time in our history, the notion would be absurd. Yet that is what Brexit will wreak upon our data economy.

The UK currently has a world-leading data economy, second only to the US in terms of prestige. Our use of machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence is considered so advanced that we have the opportunity to lead AI regulation worldwide, according to a recently published House of Lords report. Our towering financial services sector, impressive research industry and well-respected intelligence services all arguably owe their global reputation to these data processing algorithms.

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As an EU member, the UK has access to the Digital Single Market, ensuring the free flow of non-personal data across borders. Our military, law enforcement, financial services and academic research depend upon this access, as do countless UK companies wishing to advertise products and services to continental buyers.

The UK also helped shape one of the most stringent data protection frameworks ever to be enshrined in law. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) gives EU citizens a host of new rights over the use of their data: the right to request a copy of all personal data held by a company; to have this data erased from a company’s database; to opt out of data collection. It boosts data security too, compelling companies to disclose breaches within 72 hours, or face hefty fines.

Crucially, any nation who wants unfettered access to the data of EU citizens must demonstrate a comparable level of data protection to the GDPR. Only 12 countries outside of the EU meet this standard. At this late stage in the Brexit process, negotiators still haven’t agreed how data will be shared after Brexit in March 2019. Without a transitional arrangement for data in place, the UK will be classed as a “third country”, which will hinder the free flow of data until an agreement is reached.

Even if an agreement is reached, so much of the UK’s economy and public sector depends on sharing data with our EU partners that we’re likely to be bound to EU data laws but with no say at the top table. That’s relinquishing sovereignty, not taking back control of it as Brexiters promised.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

Tags: , , Categories: Economy

One Response to “Brexit will trash UK’s world-leading data sector”

  • The Brexit debate no longer is listening to reason. The only things people understand are if it relates directly to them. (0) Your pound will be worth less, and so you will be able to buy fewer things including beer and fags (1) You will be poorer, no longer can you afford to travel abroad (3) Fewer foreigners will come to live here but also, you won’t be able to go abroad to work and even visits will cost more (3) Full gig economy employment, in other words, everybody is employed for a few hours a week but you will still be stuck in the bread lines (4) All those liberal rules protecting individuals from employers in Europe won’t apply to you.