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UK tech industry warns government over post-Brexit immigration

Government needs to have an open and welcoming immigration policy after Brexit to protect the UK's tech sector from decline

UK tech bodies are calling on government to ensure the post-Brexit immigration policy is open to tech talent from the EU as it currently is.

While IT industry trade group techUK has published what it wants from the new immigration system, startup-focused Tech Nation stressed that the wrong approach to immigration could jeopardise the huge opportunity for fintech in the UK.

Speaking to Computer Weekly, Greg Michel, head of the fintech programme at Tech Nation, said encouraging fintech entrepreneurs to stay in the UK is vital for the country’s future prosperity.

He said fintech entrepreneurs are already reporting difficulties recruiting the right people due to the current uncertainties caused by Brexit and the government’s approach to it. “If we don’t find a way to entice the entrepreneurs to stay here or make it hard for them to recruit the people they want, there is a real risk we will slow the growth of fintech in the UK.”  

There is a lot to lose. Investment in UK fintech in the first half of 2018 reached $16bn, compared with $14bn in the US and just more than $15bn in China. In Europe, the UK accounted for well over half of the money invested in fintech (£26bn).

Michel said the immigration system is vital to get right, explaining that the UK regulatory regime will always be good for fintechs and many are setting up subsidiaries in Europe to ensure they can operate there post-Brexit, but if real fintech innovation is to thrive in the UK, it must be open to the EU and other overseas professions.

“Entrepreneurs are very resourceful when it comes to corporate organisation, but the hardest bit is access to talent. We must make sure people are allowed to stay here and want to stay here.”

Read more about Brexit’s worrying impact on tech sector

Maria Scott at UK-based fintech startup Tania Technology said: “Tech talent is extremely valuable and hard to find. We invest a huge amount of our time looking for the right people and nurturing those relationships.”

Meanwhile, techUK has called on government to deliver a post-Brexit immigration system that can support a thriving tech sector. This comes on the eve of the publication of the the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) report on EEA workers in the UK labour market

TechUK’s request includes: remove arbitrary caps of Tier 2 skilled workers and above, stop using salary as a proxy for skill level, relax continuous residency requirements for those undertaking business or research travel, and simplified fee structures.

Vinous Ali, head of policy at techUK, said the UK is a world-leading nation in tech and innovation, and crucial to that success has been its ability to attract and retain international talent.

“We are on the cusp of a unique opportunity to radically reform and reshape our immigration system to make it fit for purpose and allow the UK to continue to be a talent magnet.

“The UK tech sector is growing at twice the rate of the rest of the economy, despite an acute skills gap. If we are to continue to thrive, we need an immigration system that is easy to navigate for the individual and employers; is trusted by the public and puts into practice the UK Government’s Global Britain ambitions.

“It must also acknowledge the value of our deep cultural, economic and scientific relationship with the EU.”

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