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Post-Brexit UK success depends on digital, says tech industry

TechUK responds cautiously to prime minister Theresa May’s 12-point plan, calling for a “smooth and orderly” Brexit

As prime minister Theresa May set out her Brexit plan, trade body TechUK highlighted the importance of the government understanding the tech sector as it negotiates plans to leave the single market.   

In her speech on 17 January 2017, setting out her 12-point plan for leaving the European Union (EU), May said although the country will “pursue a bold and ambitious” deal with the EU, the UK will leave the single market.  

“We do not seek membership of the single market. Instead we seek the greatest possible access to it through a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement,” she said.

Responding to the speech, techUK’s deputy CEO Antony Walker said the UK’s future depends on securing the benefits of the digital age.

He said the UK tech sector is “highly integrated with suppliers and customers” across the EU, adding that “leaving the single market will have a bigger impact on tech than the rest of the UK economy”.

“That is why it is essential that the government does everything that it can to secure a soft landing for Brexit,” he said.

“The crux for tech will be about building a bridge between membership of the single market and a future free trade agreement. That bridge needs to be solid and dependable if businesses are going to have confidence in it.” 

He also urged tech business to be realistic about the difficult time ahead, and called on the government to “understand the needs of the sector in detail and persuade its coutnerparts across Europe of the benefit of striking a positive deal”. 

“The risk of falling off a regulatory cliff edge in two years’ time has not gone away. However, if a smooth and orderly exit can be achieved from the EU then the UK’s thriving tech sector can go on to be the powerhouse of Global Britain,” he added. 

Late in 2016, the prime minister promised to invest an extra £2bn a year in research and development (R&D) to help create a strong future for a post-Brexit Britain.

In her speech on 17 January 2017, she said the country has a “proud history” of leading innovation and will continue to be “one of the best places in the world for science and innovation”. 

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