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Single market and skills top TechUK's post-Brexit action plan

The tech industry group TechUK has set out a five-point plan, urging government to work with the IT sector in a post-Brexit UK

TechUK has urged politicians to listen to and engage with businesses that are committed to getting Britain back on track quickly after the Brexit vote.

With 70% of its members previously stating their preference to remain in the European Union, the tech sector trade association has set out a five-point plan that puts technology at the heart of the UK’s future growth.

It called on the government to avoid any delays to key fast-track policies such as reforms to planning rules and wayleaves, which it said would dramatically reduce costs and delays in rural comms infrastructure deployments.

The industry group also called on the government to work with business on a new digital strategy to reflect a post-Brexit UK.

Charlotte Hollway, head of policy atTtechUK, wrote: “The government should publish the existing strategy now as a draft, and seek inputs from business about how it can be made fit for purpose for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

“The UK has one chance to get this right. The approach must be strategic and comprehensive, looking at the whole of the UK’s tech ecosystem. It will fail if it is a collection of headline-grabbing gimmicks.”

The five-point plan stressed that tech businesses are data-driven and depend on the ability to move data across national borders. “Any changes in the UK’s relationship with Europe must not impede the ability of data to flow freely to and from the EU,” it stated.

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The IT skills crisis also needs urgent attention, TechUK warned. “If the UK can no longer benefit from free movement, then a new ‘smart immigration’ policy needs to be put in place that prioritises the needs to the UK’s fast-growing and high-value tech sector. This isn’t just about getting the bureaucracy right. These people must also feel that they are welcome and valued in the UK.”

TechUK mirrored the sentiment among other industry bodies, calling for cross-border trading agreements to be put in place. “Maintaining access to the single market must be the number one objective of any new relationship with Europe,” Hollway wrote.

But the mood among MEPs following David Cameron’s meeting in Brussels this week, in which EU leaders appear to be pushing for the UK to begin its formal exit from the EU before any negotiations can be made, is an early indicator that negotiating access to the single market could be fraught with difficulty.

The five-point plan

  1. Access to the single market must be the primary objective of any UK negotiation.
  2. Retaining and attracting talent is vital to the success and growth of UK tech.
  3. Work should start now on securing international data flows and data protection.
  4. Government must take every opportunity to do business as usual and listen hard to tech.
  5. Work with business now on a new digital strategy for this new world.

Source: Plan A: use the UK’s tech excellence to power Britain back to growth, TechUK

As Computer Weekly has highlighted, tech leaders want to see clarity on data laws and a clear Brexit plan to tackle IT skills.

In an article prior to the referendum, Chiara Rustici, an independent EU privacy analyst, warned: “The EU’s general data protection regulation is going to affect UK businesses offering any type of service to the EU market, regardless of whether your business stores or processes data on EU soil, and whether the UK stays in the EU or not.”

TechUK said the UK tech sector has thrived on its ability to attract the best skills and entrepreneurial talent from across Europe. In a recent Computer Weekly article, Frost & Sullivan‘s Ajay Sule and Adrian Drodz, practice director and research director respectively, highlighted the challenges the UK now faces, given that the EU referendum was essentially a vote on immigration and the free movement of people across borders.

“By putting a brake on immigration, companies may struggle to find the people they need to drive their businesses forward,” Sule and Drodz said. “EU citizens working in the high-tech sector may feel their careers are best served elsewhere. There’s a real possibility that many will seek opportunities elsewhere in Europe.”

Certainly, analyst Forrester recommended that businesses seriously consider establishing centres in areas of Europe where the cost of living is lower than the UK. And Vodafone is now giving serious consideration to pulling out of the UK, a move which could fuel a shift in skills from the UK to continental Europe.

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