The government is seeking to negotiate a deal over data sharing with Europe in which there are no substantial regulatory changes as a result of Brexit.
The ambitious strategy emerged on Thursday in the last of a series of summer policy papers published by the Department for Exiting the European Union ahead of the next round of talks in Brussels on Monday.
In it, the government argues that its “unique” status as a leading player in the world of electronic commerce means that it should be able to demand special treatment from the EU when agreeing future standards.
Regulation of online data is an increasing international flashpoint as technology companies and national security agencies both come under fire for infringing personal privacy. Since the Edward Snowden revelations and other high-profile privacy challenges against companies such as Google, it has been a particular source of tension between the EU and US.
But the UK paper argues that Britain should in future be exempt from usual European adequacy tests that are applied to third-party countries seeking to handle the data of EU citizens and instead enter into a more permanent harmonisation agreement to provide stability for companies.
“The government believes it would be in the interest of both the UK and EU to agree early in the process to mutually recognise each other’s data protection frameworks as a basis for the continued free flows of data between the EU and the UK from the point of exit until such time as new and more permanent arrangements come into force,” said the policy paper.
The government refuses to say how it would seek to maintain this mutual recognition once the rapidly-evolving standards start to diverge but says it would like to have a shared policy process in place in which both sides would have to agree to future changes.
Such a concession is likely to be fiercely resisted by Brussels negotiators who see such moves as an attempt to limit their own autonomy to set EU rules, but the principle could serve as a clue to the UK approach in other areas of business regulation, such as financial services, where the City also hopes for some form of a lasting mutual recognition deal.
The government refused to speculate on Thursday about how such an arrangement with the EU might cope with the challenge of diverging standards with the US, where much of the industry is based.
It did not acknowledge however that current EU/US regulatory harmonisation was much more limited and was a source of potential future UK advantage if it could pursue separate deals at the same time.