LONDON: Britain will aim to align closely with EU data protection laws after its departure from the Union, in a move designed to reassure business that the free flow of data across borders, vital to a service economy, won’t be disrupted after Brexit.

In the fourth and final installment of the summer policy papers outlining the UK’s position on key issues around Brexit, the Government said it would seek an early agreement that would provide certainty for business and regulatory clarity across both territories.

Digital minister, Matt Hancock explained, in comments reported by the FT, that the goal “is to combine strong privacy rules with a relationship that allows flexibility, to give customers and businesses in their use of data”.

Speaking to Reuters, Hancock noted the digital economy’s value to the UK - £118.4 billion in 2015 – and added that any disruption would likely be costly to both sides.

With talks set to resume on Monday, the government has emphasised its “unique” position in the digital and ecommerce space, a position, the government argues, that entitles it to demand special treatment from the bloc.

“The government believes it would be in the interest of both the UK and EU to agree early in the process to mutually recognise each other’s data protection frameworks as a basis for the continued free flows of data … from the point of exit until such time as new and more permanent arrangements come into force,” the paper states.

The EU currently has 12 data “adequacy arrangements” with countries including Switzerland, Israel, and the United States.

Yet these arrangements take time. The fastest agreement took 18 months, according to Tech UK’s deputy chief executive, Andrew Walker speaking on BBC radio.

Nevertheless, the paper is clear that the UK will adhere to the EU’s forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation, which will come into force in May 2018.

This will apply to any UK business handling personally identifiable information from anyone within the European Union.

"It applies to you if you're processing the information of somebody in Europe – [if] you touch it, you process it.… If it's a European resident's data, the GDPR applies to you, wherever you sit," said Reed Freeman, a US-based partner at WilmerHale.

Data sourced from the Financial Times, Reuters, European Commission, WARC; additional content by WARC staff