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CBI sounds alert on ‘data cliff-edge’ as Brexit looms

Russell Lynch
Business lobby group the CBI, whose director-general is Carolyn Fairbairn, is worried the UK’s data centres could be moved overseas: NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images)

UK businesses are facing a “data cliff-edge” over the transfer of vital information with customers and suppliers in the European Union, the CBI warned on Wednesday.

The business lobby group is calling for a transitional deal on data transfers with the EU to prevent possible disruption and fines for companies mishandling data.

The CBI is also worried the UK’s data centres could be moved overseas.

The UK has signed up to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into force in May next year, less than 10 months before Brexit.

But without a “vital bridge” to a new agreement, businesses from vast financial institutions to hotels taking bookings from overseas tourists face legal uncertainty, deputy director-general Josh Hardie said.

The UK’s “data economy” is worth some £240 billion, says the CBI.

He added: “This isn’t just a problem for tomorrow. This is already affecting companies across the UK. We have already heard businesses talking about migrating their data centres overseas so they can get legal certainty that all data will be protected in line with EU law.

“And when you consider that 40% of the EU’s data centre capacity is currently in the UK, this is a trickle that could become a flood. We can’t let that happen.”