European Commission Adopts UK Adequacy Decisions for Data Transfers

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Posted on 29 Jun 2021

European Commission Adopts UK Adequacy Decisions for Data Transfers

The European Commission (“EC”) has adopted a decision for data transfers to the UK under the GDPR. A separate adequacy decision under the Law Enforcement Directive was also adopted.

Adequacy Decision

The adequacy decision means the EU has recognised the UK as having essentially equivalent data protection rules to the EU, which in turn will facilitate lawful international data transfers under the GDPR.

The decisions enable the free flow of data between the UK and EU (and EEA) to continue. The UK has already recognised the EU as providing an adequate level of data protection.

The adequacy decision was widely expected, but the timing was tight, with the current arrangements under the Brexit deal (where the UK is not considered a third country under the GDPR) due to end on 30 June 2021.

The EC noted that the UK is subject to the European Court of Human Rights’ jurisdiction; must adhere to the European Convention of Human Rights; and the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data.

Future developments 

The adequacy decision will last for four years, at which point it will be reviewed. Interestingly, in the EC’s press release, Věra Jourová, Commission VP for values and transparency, stated they will continue monitoring any divergence from the EU’s data standards and “if anything changes on the UK side, we will intervene.”

Any adequacy decision post-2025 will not be a given. It will largely depend on UK data protection developments in the meantime. There is no automatic continuation if the UK’s standards are deemed to have slipped. Previously, the UK Government has signalled that it intends to rethink data protection provisions – the EU will monitor this closely.


Businesses will be breathing a huge sigh of relief now the UK has an adequacy decision. It will allow the continued free flow of data between the UK and EU (and the EEA). However, any data transfers still need to be subject to the obligations under the GDPR, UK GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 and any data transfers beyond the EEA (other than to countries which benefit from adequacy rulings) will need to be subject to further safeguards (such as standard contractual clauses or the derogations under Article 49 GDPR) . 

For further information, please contact our data privacy team.

The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

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