What Brexit means for the UK tech sector

Last week’s EU referendum has sent shockwaves through the UK tech sector with a range of different implications.

Many UK technology firms have seen shares dive although not as much as other UK companies, mainly due to much of their investment coming from outside the UK. Tudor Aw, head of technology sector at KPMG UK believes the UK technology sector will remain strong.  

“My view is that the core attributes that make the UK Tech sector so strong and attractive remain in place, including an amazing talent base that has a long track record of creativity such as Alan Turing’s first working computer to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web. Add to that the great infrastructure and facilities; first class universities, a stable legal system; appropriate fiscal incentives; and an ecosystem of advisors that support the needs of tech companies.

“Technology is a sector that will only increase in importance and works without borders, I therefore continue to see the UK Tech sector as one that will not only withstand the immediate challenges of the referendum result, but one that will continue to grow and thrive.” Aw continued.

The vote means that many European laws, including the EU General Data Protection Regulations will no longer directly apply to the UK. However, a statement on the ICO website says it may still need to be considered.

It said “If the UK is not part of the EU, then upcoming EU reforms to data protection law would not directly apply to the UK. But if the UK wants to trade with the Single Market on equal terms we would have to prove ‘adequacy’ – in other words UK data protection standards would have to be equivalent to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation framework starting in 2018.

“With so many businesses and services operating across borders, international consistency around data protection laws and rights is crucial both to businesses and organisations and to consumers and citizens. The ICO’s role has always involved working closely with regulators in other countries, and that would continue to be the case.

One Voice

Julian David, CEO at TechUK has spoken of the need for unity in the wake of the historic vote: “Tech companies will need to come together and speak with one voice to ensure their needs are understood and acted upon. To succeed, the UK tech sector needs great people, great infrastructure, world-class science and research, unfettered access to global markets, and a world-class smart and predictable regulatory environment. Without the benefits of EU membership, the UK needs to be at its very best to succeed. That remains our purpose. To make the UK the best place in the world for tech.”

David Evans, Director of Policy & Community at BCS, the chartered institute for IT called on the government to maintain a close and cooperative relationship with Europe : “Our starting point is that the UK must be a leading nation for digital innovation, with citizens at the heart of our approach, and very much open to international business. To support this we need to ensure that the relationship we have with the EU is right around personal data and access to markets.

“It is absolutely essential that we support and grow our academic base in computing, foster industrial collaboration, and send a message out to the international academic computing community that we want to increase collaboration.

“We must apply a sophisticated view of digital talent to our negotiations with the EU, recognising that IT is a global sector and profession, and that we need to grow and attract the best talent into the UK digital domain. Getting this right means creating an environment that is incredibly attractive to global digital business, a fantastic place to start a technology business, and a great place to live. Despite uncertainty, we need to establish, promote and act on that vision to give our international partners and UK business the confidence to plan now.”