In an open letter to International Trade Secretary Liam Fox - co-signed by TechUK chief executive Julian David and Dean Garfield, the boss of its international affiliate ITI - the industry body warned that any divergence from GDPR would actually scupper efforts to secure new trade agreements.
The letter states: “We would caution against the misunderstanding that adherence to the EU data protection regime is incompatible with securing high quality trade agreements that promise open trade and investment, ensure free cross-border data flows and respect high levels of data protection."
TechUK, which represents nearly 1,000 UK tech firms, said that it is also crucial for the UK to keep the same level of data protection as the EU if it wants to gain continued approval for EU-UK data transfers, under the so-called "adequacy agreement".
The letter notes that the UK is responsible for 11.5% of worldwide data flows, and that its location between US and the EU makes it an attractive place for investment. Any shift away from GDPR post-Brexit “would undermine this opportunity”, they say.
The move comes as Prime Minister Theresa May has attempted to reassure the industry that the official Government policy is to stay in line with – if not exceed – EU data protection standards.
Speaking at the Munich security conference over the weekend, May said that the UK Data Protection Bill – which is currently making its way through Parliament – would ensure it was aligned with the GDPR.
“But we want to go further and seek a bespoke arrangement to reflect the UK’s exceptionally high standards of data protection,” she said. “And we envisage an ongoing role for the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office, which would be beneficial in providing stability and confidence for EU and UK individuals and businesses alike.”