EU tells Britain to protect data or delete them after Brexit

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union wants Britain to protect data it has in storage on continental Europeans after Brexit and maintain bans on cheap imitations of locally branded EU produce like cognac or Parma ham.

The proposals were among those made in further position papers published by the European Commission’s Brexit negotiators on Thursday for consultation with the other 27 EU member states which offered a glimpse of thinking in Brussels about future trade ties with Britain, despite an EU refusal to start talks.

The British government has voiced frustration at the refusal of EU negotiators to open discussions on a future free trade pact until London makes concessions on elements that must be settled to avoid legal chaos when Britain leaves in March 2019.

However, in spelling out what it wants to happen on some issues on Brexit Day, the Union is having to say what it wants after that point - for example, on the protection of personal data gathered on either side of the English Channel under EU law or on trademarks and other intellectual property.

The paper on data protection says Britain may continue to use data gathered before exit day once it has left the EU as long as it continues applying the same level of protection, otherwise it must destroy the data.

Britain will also lose access to EU “networks, information systems and databases” on the day it leaves, the paper says.

That would include, for example, the information system underpinning the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme.

It makes no mention of how data could continue to flow after Brexit, unlike the British paper which sought continued close collaboration with the EU on data protection once Britain quits the bloc.

In a separate paper on intellectual property, the EU said Britain must have legislation in place to keep on protecting locally branded produce under the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) scheme.

The PGI system identifies products as originating from a particular region, like Cornish pasties or Roquefort cheese, meaning others cannot market imitations with that same name.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Julia Fioretti; Editing by Andrew Heavens