UK's new Brexit Freedom Bill promises already-slated GDPR reform, easier gene editing rules

Claims it will make it easier to amend ‘retained EU law’

The UK government is having a second pass at flogging the benefits of Brexit, as much as they exist, in a new bill that promises to accelerate work on AI and gene editing.

The so-called Brexit Freedoms Bill — its actual title will be decided by Parliamentary clerks — will also offer a "more agile way to regulate new digital markets and AI and [create] a more proportionate and less burdensome data rights regime compared to the EU's General Data Protection Directive."

The bill promises to make it easier to amend or remove "retained EU law" which was left in place following the UK's departure from the political and trading bloc.

It is set to give ministers more power to change retained EU law more quickly than before, without needing votes in Parliament.

The bill follows the policy paper from Sept 2021 which followed Sir Iain Duncan Smith's new Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform (TIGRR), a much-derided document designed to examine existing laws and identify future opportunities following our exit from the EU.

In terms of changes to data laws beyond GDPR, the government has already launched a consultation lead jointly by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy under the National Data Strategy, first announced in September 2020.

It is unclear how the Brexit Freedoms Bill will enable or interact with that strategy, although some of its more radical proposals appear seem set to be watered down.

It had proposed changes to Article 22 of the UK's GDPR implementation, potentially removing subjects' rights to challenge automated decisions. But Harry Lee, DCMS data protection and data rights deputy director, told a conference earlier this month that the government was looking to improve "efficacy of safeguards" relating to automated decision making, rather than remove them.

Whatever the government decides, it must walk the line between appearing to be independent of EU regulation and the need to be in line with GDPR to maintain the much-needed "adequacy" ruling to ensure data sharing between the UK and the EU is allowed to continue. Legal commentators have pointed out the adequacy decision is under review and could be jeopardised if the UK strays too far from GDPR.

The UK could also decide losing the adequacy decision might be a price worth paying. The government's efforts to strip away EU law seem to have hit an early constitutional roadblock though. Reports suggest Scottish and Welsh governments have expressed concern the move would affect devolved powers.

The regulatory reforms do promise work for government IT though. The earlier policy paper [PDF] describes plans for the Digital Transformation of Regulation.

The idea is to create a data store of regulation that uses "advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning to make regulatory information more accessible and useful."

"At the heart of this work is a new database of all UK regulations affecting business, enriched with additional data that makes it easier to understand each regulation and its context. This database will be openly accessible so that organisations and individuals can use it to develop new digital applications that help people to understand and navigate the UK regulatory regime. The programme will also develop a tool for businesses, hosted on GOV.UK, that will help firms to identify the regulations that are relevant to them and understand what actions they need to take in response," the paper said.

Details of the Brexit Freedoms Bill are set to be outlined "in due course." ®

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