The UK has just signed its first new free trade agreement independently from the EU, with Japan. As a rule, digital trade deals are a risk to digital rights because they can weaken consumer protections by providing binding enforceable commitments to deregulate the digital environment with limited public debate and democratic oversight. This deal is especially problematic. The agreement is mainly a straight copy of the EU- Japan deal the UK currently enjoys, but there are some small additions which are very relevant for digital rights.
These changes signal that the UK intends to diverge significantly from EU digital policy, shifting towards the Asia-Pacific regulatory model of lower data protection, while trying to maintain data flows with the EU. This have-your-cake-and-eat-it approach may not hold and the deal could be the final straw which breaks the EU adequacy decision to enable data flows with the UK.
In this briefing we analyse the deal, both in the context of other global trade agreements as well as its impact on domestic digital rights. We also place the deal in the global context of wider regulation to show how this treaty has severe implications for UK digital policy. As we will show, the deal is being used to make these sweeping changes to domestic policy and governance by stealth with limited public debate.