Anti-terror laws face EU scrutiny post-brexit
THE European Union could demand more say over Britain’s anti-terrorism laws after Brexit, a report from the House of Lords EU Affairs Committee has warned.
Britain’s security laws could be subject to greater scrutiny after it leaves the EU if it is to meet the data protection standards in Brussels required for the free flow of information, the report said. Data movement across borders is vital for companies and law enforcement to function, it added, but can only happen if the UK’S protection of citizens matches those of the EU.
The committee said the UK’S surveillance laws could be incompatible with EU regulations, in a report that revealed the Government was not doing enough to establish a data agreement. “The Prime Minister has said very clearly that the UK should not be subject to EU rulings after we have left. But unless we align with the EU’S data protection rules we are likely to fall out of line with them, and it will be hard to be regarded as a partner for data transfers,” said Lord Jay, chairman of the committee.
The UK will need to secure a compatibility agreement with the EU for security services and businesses to be able to transfer information across borders, the report said, warning that failure to do so could “present a non-tariff barrier to business, and it could hinder police and security co-operation”.
As a member state of the EU, the UK’S national security laws were exempt from scrutiny in terms of data protection. “We tend to put more emphasis on national security requirements than the EU, which tends to emphasise privacy,” said Lord Jay. “We could find a tension between our wish to prioritise national security and the EU’S wish to protect individual liberty.”
The US is renegotiating its data sharing agreement with the EU after the Safe Harbour treaty was struck down in the European Court of Justice. “After Brexit, we’re more likely to be in a similar position to the US,” said Kristina Holt, senior associate at Pinsent Masons. She said the chances of the UK’S Investigatory Powers Act facing a similar challenge were “relatively high”.
The EU last year ruled the UK’S “indiscriminate” collection and retention of data was illegal under European law. The actions are currently justified under national security exemptions.