As the UK forges a new relationship with Europe, techUK and its members have been working hard to ensure the voice of the tech sector is heard in forthcoming negotiations.
Following Britain's vote to leave the EU, techUK published a 5 point plan after hundreds of interviews and conversations with techUK members immediately post-referendum. These conversations formed techUK's initial priorities for the tech sector for future negotiations. In January 2017, techUK launched two major pieces of work following the Prime Minister’s Brexit Plan. Our report, The UK Digital Sectors After Brexit commissioned by Frontier Economics, and our priorities for UK exit negotiations.
Issue 1: Transitionary deals and business certainty
- In October, techUK signed an open letter to the Prime Minister on the need of UK tech businesses for a smooth transition to a new single market relationship when the country leaves the EU. The letter highlighted that issues such as data protection and negotiating a new relationship for our services sector are highly complex and agreement may take longer than the two years granted after triggering Article 50.
Issue 2: Best possible access to the single market
- techUK responded to recent reports that Theresa May will shortly outline plans for a sector-by-sector approach to Brexit negotiations. We know that the UK’s future trading success will be underpinned by a thriving digital economy – and its priorities cut across traditional sectoral approaches when it comes to areas such as access to capital, data flows, access to talent, cross-border trade and more. Politico carried techUK’s response to new NIESR research which suggested that Brexit risks 60% a drop in UK service sector exportswith the European Economic Area. The report outlines that anything less than a comprehensive free-trade agreement (FTA) with the EU will not recoup any loss in services exports, and would reduce the long-term fall in goods exports from between 58-65 per cent to between 35-44 per cent.
- techUK raised concerns that the Commission’s flagship project, the Digital Single Market, risks veering off-track. Whilst there are still opportunities for the Commission to refocus on ensuring remaining initiatives deliver true economic benefits for scaling European companies, this will be all the more needed in a difficult period ahead politically. As Europe’s digital value chains are deeply integrated, this matters not just to the UK but to digital economies across Europe. This builds on our work with our French and German counterparts on getting the DSM right alongside a smooth Brexit transition for digital.
Issue 3: Free flow of data
- Ahead of techUK’s upcoming publication on UK-EU data flows, we’ve been busy talking with our members and lawyers to get to grips with the complex legal and commercial ramifications for data flows for a UK outside of the European Union.
- Last month, techUK launched Silver Linings: The implications of Brexit for the UK Data Centre Sector, a paper outlining how data centres underpin our digital economy and Brexit presents both threat and opportunity for the UK sector. The paper outlines how these threats are immediate and are already making an impact. The report calls for urgent action from government in seven policy areas: uncertainty, data flows, trade, skills, energy costs, inward investment and environment.
- techUK also responded to the maiden speech from the UK’s new Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham on the UK’s post-Brexit data future.
Issue 4: Access to Skills and Talent
Ahead of techUK’s publication on skills and international talent (launching lateNovember), we have been busy talking to hundreds of our members on their current and future talent needs, and thinking through how the UK can create a world-leading data-driven smarter migration system. You can check out some of our early thinking in this blog from our Policy Manager Doniya Soni.
- Our CEO Julian David also offered his reflections on the tone and direction of migration policy after Conservative Party conference in his Computer Weekly column: A global, digital Britain will only succeed with global tech talent. Julian also spoke to the Financial Times highlighting that “A growing industry like tech is driven by access to talent at all levels — not just technology jobs but also business, sales. It requires a whole range of skills”.
Issue 5: Innovation and ScaleUp Britain
In August 2016, techUK responded to the announcements by HM Treasury which guaranteed EU funding beyond date UK leaves the EU. The comment highlighted the need to focus on making sure the Government's approach to exiting the EU is aligned to the needs of UK tech and science.
Following techUK’s request to Government to ratify the Unified Patent Court Agreement, techUK welcomed the news that the Government would indeed continue with plans to ratify the court. While welcoming this development, techUK have made it clear that now the UK will participate in the UPC it is in the interest of UK tech for the UK to remain a member once it is no longer an EU member state. The UPC will help foster innovation by allowing companies to protect their innovations across 25 countries.
- Access to finance for scaling UK companies has also been a priority for techUK. In August, we highlighted the uncertainty many start-ups face on the status of the European Investment Fund following Brexit, and the importance of it being addressed. techUK therefore welcomed the announcement of £400m investment allocated into British Business Bank specifically for UK scaling tech companies in the Autumn Statement.
Issue 6: Assessing the Impact of Regulatory Divergence
techUK is closely monitoring the impact of Brexit on policy that impacts the design of products: eco-design rules, chemical legislation that restricts certain substance in products, rules around how products are managed at the end of their life and other technical product legislation that falls under the New Approach. We are advocating a harmonised approach to single market aspects of the relevant EU rules (for example, see here). However, Defra have already confirmed that a third of environmental regulation cannot be easily transposed by the Great Repeal Bill because of technical issues, predominately because of a reliance on EU institutions in their administration (for example, REACH). We will work with government to ensure fit for purpose and proportionate regulation is introduced where this is an issue.
techUK is also home to the UK Spectrum Forum, who recently launched The impact of the UK leaving the EU on UK spectrum policy . Wireless and spectrum are key to driving the digital economy and will underpin future technologies such as 5G and IOT. This report outlines the key priorities and areas for the UK to maintain international influence and leadership.
Issue 7: International Trade
- Ahead of the Prime Minister’s visit to India, techUK joined forces with our Indian counterparts in a major call for stronger UK-Indian Economic Ties post-Brexit, highlighting four priorities to drive a new wave of growth underpinned by major new trade deal.
We have a raft of working policy papers that have been prepared on a whole host of digital and tech issues, so if you are working on a particular area and would like to get techUK’s take and speak to one of our experts, just get in touch: