I have been asked a number of questions on Twitter following the statement @techuk released yesterday supporting the proposed withdrawal agreement. Here are my answers.
techUK is a business organisation that represents companies rather than individuals that work in the technology sector. We speak on behalf of those members – hundreds of companies large and small employing hundreds of thousands of people across the UK. Companies that are faced with taking hard business decisions as we approach the deadline for the UK to leave the EU.
Digital tech companies number many thousands in UK. They are not all techUK members so clearly we do not represent everybody in tech but, given the spread of our members from chip design and electronics, satellite and telecoms through to health tech and AI solutions providers, we have a very broad base.
We work with our members on a daily basis and our positions are developed through a system of groups and committees, including a Brexit policy group that is open to all members. Major decisions such as techUK’s approach to Brexit are agreed at Board level.
In the run-up to the EU Referendum, we surveyed our members and found a very clear majority for remain. We published that data and ensured that the media and campaigning groups were fully informed of our position. Clearly, the Referendum did not go the way techUK member companies hoped, however, at no time since the Referendum have our members called for us to campaign for a new vote. Instead, their direction was to respect the fact of the referendum and work within the political process to ensure that the agreements negotiated with the remaining members of the EU support their ability to invest in the UK and continue to trade successfully. We have never taken the view that leaving the EU was preferable to remaining a member but we have engaged in the political process to try and mitigate the impact of Brexit on the ability of tech firms to do business. We have published many detailed proposals to address the complicated and important issues that must be resolved particularly relating to data, skills, customs and regulatory alignment. Many of our proposals have been reflected in government policy.
One of the biggest issues that face our member companies, their employees, customers and partners is the uncertainty provoked by the withdrawal process. This has serious business implications for investment and planning but also human consequences for the people working in member businesses.
We have been very clear that No Deal is a potential catastrophe for member businesses and resolving uncertainty is paramount given that there are only 130 or so days to go. Therefore, in consultation with our members we made a very clear decision to support the proposed withdrawal agreement which can resolve the uncertainty and avoids the risk of a no deal disaster.
We recognise the agreement is not perfect and it is also not in itself a future trade agreement with the EU but it does contain a number of positions and proposals that can build to one. It is also the only proposal that is currently on the table.
We have said that if that changes then we will in consultation with our members determine what is the best position for us to take to continue to support jobs and investment in digital technology businesses in the UK.
Find out more about the deal on the table and what happens next by Giles Derrington, Head of Policy.