UK Tech Braces Itself for Brexit


LONDON – Britain’s impending exit from the European Union, Brexit, is dominating almost every part of UK life at the moment. The tech industry is by no means exempt. It has serious concerns over what comes after Brexit day on March 29th.


Immigration, Talent and Data

One major issue is “immigration and hiring talent and the movement of talent,” according to Philippe Botteri, a VC partner at Accel. He told Techcrunch Disrupt Berlin: “Even companies that don’t move their headquarters to London will often at some point begin to build a team.”

A third of those employed in London’s startups are from outside the UK, with 1 in 5 from the EU (via ZDNet). At the moment, EU citizens have the right to work in any member state, and there is free movement within the EU. However, ending this is a key requirement for the British government in its negotiations with the EU. Hiring and moving employees may not come so easy for UK tech firms after Brexit.

Another issue Mr. Botteri raised is data. “Where the data is stored is very critical. You have laws in the EU,” he explained. “If the U.K. is out [that bloc], then does it mean that every company will need to have a separate data center in the U.K. or manage data differently?”

A disruption in the UK tech industry could reverberate throughout the sector in this globalized, highly interconnected world. While UK tech is currently thriving, it is hugely based on international trade. If it takes a hit that could have major reverberations worldwide, including in Silicon Valley

Taking Action

So concerned are many in the industry that they wrote an open letter to UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Signed by people such as Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and founder Martha Lane Fox, it said that an agreement struck between the British Government and the EU “will vastly increase friction in trade with the EU and impose significant and costly changes for the tech industry.”

The tech leaders concluded: “Members of Parliament should NOT support the agreement in the ‘meaningful vote’ and should instead vote for a new referendum, a ‘People’s Vote’, on Brexit, with the option to Remain in the EU.” The vote on the proposed deal was resoundingly lost by the Government, which suffered a historic defeat in Parliament. However, Mrs. May is still trying to get it through.

So high are concerns within the UK tech industry, that many are engaged with the campaign to get a second referendum. They have come together for hack days, to help build technology tools and come up with ideas to support the campaign.

No Deal Makes Things Worse

Of particular concern is that Britain will leave without having struck a trade deal with the EU. People in the tech industry believe this will exacerbate many of the issues caused by Brexit. However, a No Deal or “Hard” Brexit has become more likely. The British Parliament, which must sign-off on any Brexit deal, is currently deadlocked.

The clock keeps ticking though. We will find out the answers to at least some of these question soon enough.

3 thoughts on “UK Tech Braces Itself for Brexit

  • Yet another biased London eyed view of what Brexit means, trotting out the same old same old arguments. I voted leave, not because its got anything to do with immigration. But because four decades of politicians of every colour have conspired to lie about the true meaning of the EU. When they actually asked us ‘do you want to join the European Economic Community?’ the country voted yes, they never had the nerve to ask us ‘do you want a common currency – or a Fiscal and total political union ? – they knew full well the answer would have been NO.

    At no point were we EVER consulted about joining a Federated Union of States with harmonised laws on EVERYTHING, and an EU army. Bureaucrats have to meddle to justify their existence, and the EU gravy train is legendarily generous.

    So for the first time since 1975 when we were asked, we said ‘no thanks’. With the specific intent of giving the metropolitan elite a metaphorical punch on the nose.

    Our problems right now stem from overt resistance to carrying out the specific will of the voters, combined with fundamentally wrong strategic decisions made at the start of the process following the vote.
    For example:
    We should have stayed in EFTA [European Free Trade Association] and all the other pan European Agencies [such as ESA] – where being a member of the EU isn’t a condition of membership.

    My employer has just spent three years moving to a pan European model – it has failed, partly because German employment laws offer far better protection to employees there than they do in the UK – guess what, 15% of the UK workforce has left. And the UK has been consistently the best performer for decades – it has been painful.

    If the UK lacks technical skills then the education system [and therefore the politicians] is to blame and has been for decades – otherwise you wouldn’t need STEM Ambassadors – so claiming that Brexit will cause skills shortages is a lame excuse for not having proper employee training and development schemes.

    Apologies for the rant, but there’s just as much nonsense being peddled on this as the Great Trump Wall of Mexico….

  • Thanks for keep up up to date. Same tired old cheap-labour arguments from tech companies. Disappointing.
    May campaigned against Brexit and delivered a punishing “deal” that even a politician wouldn’t vote for. I see no inconsistency here. Any confusion comes from believing what politicians say over what they do. Nobody with any common sense believes May has changed her mind about Brexit. Says one thing, does another. The road is now clear for what was always the default – an exit under WTO rules. Britain can then negotiate standing on its own feet, not as a disgraced ex-partner. All unlikely to happen, as historically EU continually re-votes countries into submission. A re-vote at this time would produce a bigger exit vote, so expect it to be put off for as long as possible.

    1. We seem to be in violent agreement 🙂

      For some places in the UK, most notably those in receipt of EU targeted funding, for specific projects, the EU was perceived as a good thing. But the EU was always a very inefficient way of laundering English taxpayers money to the regions which benefitted..

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.