Greetings from Brussels!
This week, the question of U.K. adequacy was deliberated in the European Parliament. More specifically, the LIBE committee is of the opinion that the European Commission should amend its draft U.K. adequacy decision to align with recent EU court rulings, as well as with the opinions of the EDPB. The LIBE committee passed a resolution of its evaluation of the commission’s approach on the adequacy of the U.K.’s data protection regime, with 37 in favor, 30 against and one abstention.
You will recall, as highlighted in my April notes following EDPB opinions, the EU watchdog considered U.K. bulk access practices, onward transfers and its own international agreements required further clarification. Clearly, MEPs have taken the opinions of the EDPB on board finding that, if the implementing decisions are as they currently stand, national data protection authorities should suspend transfers of personal data to the U.K. when indiscriminate access to personal data is possible. A Parliamentary news release provides more detail on this development. Following the draft resolution vote, rapporteur MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar of the progressive alliance of the socialists and democrats political group said, “The Civil Liberties Committee considers that a decision on adequacy should be granted only after the specific elements of U.K. law or practice that are still a matter of serious concern have been properly assessed. Therefore, we call on the Commission to modify the implementing decision to avoid repeating previous mistakes.” The draft resolution will be debated and put to the vote during next week’s plenary session.
According to some reports, the European Commission was not overly enamored by some of the more colored Parliamentary commentaries, urging MEPs to tone down their criticism of U.K. privacy standards. The commission’s view remains steadfast in that to maintain close — and established — trade and security relationships with the U.K., the adequacy decision is significantly important. If reports are to be believed, it’s not only the EU executive applying pressure on MEPs. It seems that France has been communicating with the EU legislators to be more pragmatic of mind when considering the U.K. data protection regime. Ultimately, putting the emotions of the Brexit decision aside, the reality is that it would be politically counterproductive for Europe not to reach an adequacy decision, considering the U.K.’s proximity as a trading partner to the EU and its significant role as a facilitator of international data flows. Incidentally, that logic applies to both sides of the channel. Next week’s plenary session will be interesting, as it appears the European Parliament is fairly split down political party factions, as contrary to the LIBE resolution, the center-right and more conservative parliamentarian groups are calling for the adoption of the adequacy decisions without delay to avoid general disruption.
However, it is important to note that adequacy decisions are implementing acts of the EU executive, the Parliament has limited power to alter or block such decisions. The commission fully expects to have approval from the EU member states before adoption.
In another interesting commentary this week, I recommend watching the EuroNews interview with Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president of the European Commission, responsible for all things EU digital. In her interview, she speaks to the global challenges of harnessing the power of data. It sheds insight into her vision for the future and importantly the direction of the EU digital economy as supporting acts of data governance legislation take shape.
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