It’s not just movement of people under the Brexit microscope, but also the movement of data. This is the result of a new government paper which says the UK will seek new arrangements with the EU to allow information to flow freely between the UK and Europe post-Brexit.

British businesses, individuals and law enforcement agencies alike currently rely on data from Europe, something that will need to continue after we leave the union. As such, the government paper says it’s essential that data can be exchanged and protected to maintain a “deep and special partnership”.

Investigatory Powers Act threatens success of agreement

This partnership may be deep and special, but it has had its ups and downs of late, with the UK government agreeing to some EU legislation but challenging with others of its own. For example, the Europe-wide GDPR ruling on data protection will be adopted in the UK, meaning that companies which handle data poorly could be heavily sanctioned. However, the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act has been met unfavourably by the EU commission, and decried by its critics as being unnecessarily invasive. Even luminaries such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee have spoken out against it; he described the act as a “security nightmare”.

In fact, legal experts believe that if there was one thing capable of scuppering the whole agreement, it could indeed be the Investigatory Powers Act. Dr Karen Mc Cullagh of the University of East Anglia told the BBC that, unless the act is amended, “it is highly likely that the UK will not be granted an adequacy decision and data flows will be blocked.”

These are challenges that need to be surmounted in order for data to be transferred openly across borders, because any agreement between the UK and EU would need each party to fully recognise each other’s data protection laws.

With Brexit talks already taking longer than many had anticipated, the government has suggested a timeline be put in place so that any long-term data sharing arrangements can be accounted for further down the line, to not get in the way of decisions that are needed that little more urgently.