EU-UK data flows deal approved despite opposition from privacy watchdogs

The European Commission on Monday sealed a data flows deal with the United Kingdom worth billions of euros in digital trade, POLITICO Europe reports.

The approval comes only days before an interim solution to keep data flowing across the Channel after Brexit runs out.

The adequacy decision, as the data flows deal is known, will allow personal data to be transferred from the EU to the U.K., avoiding a no-deal scenario that could have cost the British economy as much as £1.6 billion.

After more than a year of constructive talks it is right the European Union has formally recognised the UK’s high data protection standards. This will be welcome news to businesses, support continued cooperation between the UK and the EU and help law enforcement authorities keep people safe.

Oliver Dowden, U.K. Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The decision requires both sides to renegotiate the deal in four years, meaning the EU could pull out of the deal if the U.K. diverges too far from the EU's privacy rules. That could have a big impact on the U.K., since three-quarters of its international data flows are with the 27-country bloc. London has said that it wants to revamp its privacy standards in a bid to reap greater economic rewards from data.

“After months of careful assessments, today we can give EU citizens certainty that their personal data will be protected when it is transferred to the U.K. This is an essential component of our new relationship with the U.K. It is important for smooth trade and the effective fight against crime," EU justice chief Didier Reynders said in a statement.

Despite the announcement, the decision has faced heavy criticism from MEPs, regulators and privacy activists, who argue that the U.K.'s surveillance rules and exemptions for immigrants merited further scrutiny from Brussels. Responding to concerns, Commission Vice President Věra Jourová said Brussels had built in safeguards that allow it to intervene if Britain diverges too far from EU data protection standards.

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