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Ed Vaizey speaks on why Europe is important to UK tech

Culture and digital economy minister Ed Vaizey says Europe offers a pool of skills and a digital market for UK technology

Speaking at the Salesforce World Tour 2016 in London, Ed Vaizey, minister of state for culture and the digital economy, emphasised the importance of Europe to UK technology companies.

When asked about Europe, Vaizey said the digital single market of 500 million citizens makes a difference.

“We have a referendum to stay or leave Europe. The digital single market is a great opportunity for business, and access to skills and access to the market is very important for business.”

Vaizey explained it is important for any government to show a lead in technology. “Government ministers are talking about technology. Digital infrastructure such as 4G and skills are important,” he said.

“The UK is a great place to invest. We have a great tax environment and being part of the European Union means our companies here can draw on a great skills pool.”

Among the attractions of the UK for tech startups, according to Vaizey, is technology adoption. He said: “The UK consumer and business are really good adopters of technologies such as smartphones and cloud computing, which attracts a lot of technology companies to start here.”

Vaizey said the government has a great dialogue with the tech community. “We are a government that uses technology and importantly, we invest in skills. We are constantly looking to upgrade skills.”

He highlighted the importance of Tech City, which he admitted he was initially sceptical about. “Startups get significant support through Tech City, and provides a porous relationship with government in issues where we can bring in potential reforms.”

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When asked about sharing data with the US, he said Safe Harbour is massively important. “We must keep the free flow of data. We don’t want to put in barriers.”

In April 2016, Vaizey said government is actively encouraging more overseas technology firms to open UK datacentres to help businesses grappling with data sovereignty issues.

Commenting on the Investigatory Powers Act and the debate on strong encryption versus the need for law enforcement to gain access to encrypted data, Vaizey said: “It is not a binary debate – it is perfectly possible where tech people push an agenda to push encryption in the UK. But we also understand the need for the security services to have the tools to keep us safe as citizens.”

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