This content is part of the Essential Guide: Brexit and the UK technology sector - read our analysis of the implications

Tech staff leaning towards a remain vote

The majority of tech staff want to stay in the EU but there are those in the channel keen to see a Leave victory later this week

There are only days left now before the nation gets the chance to cast its vote over the future relationship with Europe in the referendum this Thursday and the evidence is stacking up to signal the tech world will largely vote remain.

The majority of public comments from the industry about the vote had revealed a desire to remain part of the European Union because of the benefits it brings along with the concerns about the impact on the economy.

First there was a letter sent to The Times signed by 200 business leaders, which included a smattering of senior executives from major tech firms, including Sir Peter Rigby from SCC.

Then the bosses of firms like Microsoft spelt out their views on the issue raising the warning that leaving would undermine investments made in the UK. That was recently reinforced by a letter in a national newspaper by its chairman Bill Gates also calling for a pro-EU vote.

Now some findings from Juniper Research can be added to those examples, with the firm finding that 65% of UK tech employees believed that leaving the EU would have a negative impact on the business.

Some of the main concerns are around the impact that leaving would have on attempts to recruit skilled staff, with some in the security market also voicing this as a major worry should the Brexit campaign succeed.

There are also some fears that the IT industry in the UK would be hit by a reduction in funding and possibly hotspots like Silicon roundabout in London would lose some of their attractiveness to overseas investors.

On the opposite side of the fence Juniper Research found that those who felt there would be no negative impact from leaving the EU, almost a third of the respondents, were relishing the opportunity to reduce red tape and compete on a global stage.

“Vote Leave have focused effectively on the emotive issue of immigration,” said Dr Windsor Holden, head of forecasting & consultancy at Juniper Research. “The combination of financial and economic issues which concern those wary of Brexit cannot as easily be encapsulated and communicated and therefore present a real challenge to those seeking to engage with the public.”

Data concerns

Another piece of research to add to the EU debate comes from Blue Coat, which has found that people are much happier storing their data in the EU.

Slightly awkwardly for the Leave campaign the security vendor's research found that Brits would rather trust an EU state to store their data (40%) than their own country (38%).  Across Europe, Germany was ranked the most trustworthy, followed by France and then the UK.

“The EU regulatory landscape is set to radically change with the introduction of the GDPR legislation and this research highlights the level of distrust in countries outside the EU. Respondents prefer to keep their data within the EU, supporting new European data protection legislation," said Robert Arandjelovic, director of product marketing EMEA, Blue Coat Systems.

There have not been too many channel advocates for Leave sharing their views publicly but James Phipps, CEO of IT and comms specialist Excalibur Communications, was happy to take to the airwaves and tell Radio 4 about why he felt leaving the EU would be a positive.

“For me it’s black and white.  I feel passionately that the project as it is now is not right.  If genuine change had been offered then I’d have been very positive about remaining inside the EU but without that genuine change, I think the project is doomed to fail, so therefore I don’t want to hang around to see it happen," he said.

Echoing the thoughts of some of the respondents that spoke to Juniper Research about leaving Europe, Phipps was also concerned about the amount of red tape and regulations that came out of Europe.

“We have invested heavily to ensure that our staff work in a modern, comfortable environment, which by its nature is low risk. However, we have found we are increasingly bogged-down in red tape. Recently we have had to do an ‘ergonomic-assessment’ covering where our team sit, the ambient lighting, chair support, whether they can reach their keyboards correctly.  Just this one health and safety requirement is now five pages long. Our team and their well-being has always been our priority but the administration required is disproportionate," he added.

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