February 26, 2018 / 6:39 PM / 10 months ago

Britain will keep data flowing post-Brexit - minister

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Britain is working to ensure data will flow unhindered between the UK and Europe after Brexit, and technology companies will still be able to access the best international talent, junior trade minister Graham Stuart told Reuters on Monday.

A European Union flag flies from a lamp post opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Frictionless data transfer, as enshrined in new European legislation shaped by Britain, and the ability to find talented engineers and other workers after Brexit are the top two demands from tech and telecoms companies.

Vittorio Colao, CEO of Vodafone (VOD.L), said earlier on Monday at the world’s biggest mobile show that the notion of “managed divergence” between British and EU rules after Britain leaves the trading bloc made no sense and would not work.

Britain is believed to favour mixed approach of “managed divergence” after it leaves, whereby it will follow EU rules in some sectors and diverge from them in others. European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday called the ideas floated so far “pure illusion”.

Stuart, who promotes investment in the UK by foreign partners and helps British companies export, said the government was “committed to ensuring that data flows in Europe”.

“Data is a high priority for the government in the negotiations to ensure that we have a system that works and facilitates the transfer in a way which does not create barriers for operators on either side of the Channel,” he said.

“It is absolutely critical to the industrial future set out in our recent strategy that data flows are not interrupted.”

Stuart said it was up to others in the government to negotiate the details of a data agreement as part of a trade package with the European Union.

But he said tech companies in Britain would be able to employ the best engineers and other talent from international markets after Britain leaves.

“The government remains committed to ensuing that people can access talent, and clearly you can see by their actual investment decision that companies are reassured,” he said.

Companies including Google, Facebook and Amazon have announced investments in London since the 2016 EU referendum.

Stuart was speaking on the first day of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where he said Britain had a bigger presence than ever and was helping nearly 200 companies secure more deals in international markets.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Catherine Evans

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