techUK Policy Pulse | Your weekly update on digital and tech policy

Theresa May failed to pass the Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament – suffering the worst defeat on record. Jeremy Corbyn then failed to pass a motion of ‘no confidence’ in the Prime Minister, with the PM sneaking through on the back of DUP votes.

So, what does this all mean? Well, as things stand, the UK is headed for No Deal by default. Standing on the steps of No10 Theresa May said she would be reaching out to all party leaders and senior parliamentarians to find a way through this, but with No10 refusing to back down from its red lines and other party’s laying down their own red lines (taking no deal off the table, discussing a 2nd referendum and/or committing to a Customs Union), it is hard to see where a break through could  be made.

Nevertheless, the Government has promised A Meaningful Vote Part II (or Part III depending on how you want to count it) on 29 January on whatever compromise position comes out of these new negotiations.

In the meantime, the clock continues counting down…

Following on from the overwhelming defeat on the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration techUK has published a poll of its members on Brexit next steps (conducted in December ahead of the originally scheduled Meaningful Vote). I’ve included the key headlines below but for a full break down and analysis of our poll click here.

  • 70 per cent of techUK members who responded to the survey believe that a No Deal Brexit in March 2019 would have a negative impact on their business. 84 per cent of respondents believe the UK overall is unprepared for No Deal.
  • When asked to rank their preferences for what techUK should do if the Prime Minister’s deal failed to secure the support of Parliament, 51 per cent of the 276 respondents said that supporting calls for another referendum would be their first preference choice. Sixty three per cent of members selected a second referendum as one of their top three preferences.
  • The second strongest first preference (16 per cent) was to support calls for a delay to Article 50 in order to allow time for further negotiations. It had almost equal support to a second referendum (64 per cent) when all three top preferences were taken into account.
  • Only 11 per cent of members responding viewed accepting No Deal as their first preference, with less than one third (27 per cent) listing it in their top three preferences. Very few respondents (2 per cent) selected a General Election as a first preference and only 25 per cent included it in their top three preferences.
  • The survey also suggests that the majority of techUK members want a close relationship with the EU after Brexit, with six in ten respondents (59 per cent) supporting closer alignment with the EU compared to ‘looser’ alignment (29 per cent).

The techUK position is that everything must be done to avoid the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal and that all options now need to be on the table to break the deadlock, including putting the question back to the people.

The chaos in Parliament has also meant that other legislation has been derailed. Most notably the first debate of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill which was due to take place on Wednesday was pulled to allow for a five-hour debate and vote on the motion of no confidence. This is a vital piece of post-Brexit legislation to enable a future immigration system to be implemented – as set out in the White Paper. You can read techUK’s take on the White Paper here and our asks of a new immigration system here.

Away from Brexit things are looking up. On Tuesday, the Tech Talent Charter launched its first annual report collating data from its signatories on gender diversity. Across TTC’s signatories women hold 26% of technical roles compared with 19% UK wide — with micro businesses found to be the most gender diverse with women holding 53% of technical roles. This is great news but there is a long way to go. To find out more about the TTC, which techUK are proud to sponsor and support, click here.

In other good news, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has announced 600 free places on all-female CyberFirst Defenders courses encouraging teenage girls to learn cyber-skills. Women make up a tiny percentage of those working in cyber so initiatives like this that give young girls a practical insight into careers in this field and the skills necessary are hugely welcome.

techUK News and Events

It is not too late to sign up to our Digital Brit-twin event taking place on Tuesday 22nd January. The one-day conference will unpack the National Infrastructure Commission's digital twin recommendation to see how we can make the national digital twin a reality. For more information on the day and to register click here.

On the 6th February techUK will be launching a paper on digital identity in Parliament. The paper highlights the importance for the tech sector in the UK of developing an interoperable framework for the provision of digital identities which operates across both the public and the private sphere. The event will take place in Committee Room 10 in the Houses of Parliament, starting at 5pm.

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