EU Commission grants UK data “adequate” status - Frictionless data flows between the EU and UK may continue (for now)


UK retailers are breathing a sigh of relief, as the EU Commission finally adopted the data transfer adequacy decision in favour of the UK.

This is important news for any UK retailers that receives personal data from the EU. The EU’s decision means that personal data may continue to flow freely between the EU and the UK. It also means that UK retailers will not have to make potentially costly and time-consuming alternative arrangements to legitimise their data transfers from the EU to satisfy the requirements of EU GDPR. The UK government has welcomed the news, noting that the decision will support trade, innovation and investment. The decision mirrors the earlier UK government decision to grant adequacy to the EU for data transfers going in the opposite direction. Whilst this is undoubtedly good news for UK retailers, it comes with a caveat. The adequacy decision includes a “sunset clause” that allows the EU to review the adequacy decision in four years’ time. This is potentially significant because:

  • The EU has said that its decision is based on the UK’s data protection regime being the same as when it exited the EU.
  • For its part, the UK government has referred to the UK’s “fully independent data policy” post-Brexit.

The EU has said it will monitor the UK’s data protection standards going forward, and will intervene if those standards cease to be “adequate” to safeguard EU personal data. Such intervention could involve the EU refusing to renew the UK’s adequacy status. It also remains to be seen whether the decision will be subject to legal challenge from third parties. But for the time being, UK retailers can put those standard contractual clause agreements back in the drawer for their EU data flows.

Find further information on the data protection implications of Brexit in How will Brexit impact Data protection and what should we be doing?

Head to our Brexit Exchange where you will find all the latest updates and developments from our experts, regarding Brexit and how that affects retailers and individuals in a range of areas.


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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