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Government Brexit studies merely provide background on tech sector

The infamous government Brexit impact assessments have been released, but tech sector reports reveal nothing new

The Exiting the EU Committee has released the so-called Brexit impact studies for UK business sectors, with little more than sector background and its interaction with EU provided.

The 39 reports, which are available on Parliament’s website, include specific entries for ICT (22 pages), fintech, (four pages) and telecommunications (22 pages).

These reports do not analyse the impact of Brexit on sectors as originally promised by politicians pushing for Brexit, but rather detail the current state of affairs. The important views of people working in the ICT, fintech and telecoms sectors were left out of the versions published.

David Davis, secretary of state for exiting the European Union, said in the past that almost 60 impact studies on the impact of Brexit on different sectors in would include “excruciating” detail, but the reports do not look at the impact Brexit will have. They do, however, bring together information already in the public domain. The reports also outline how the sectors currently interact with the EU.

“As the Government has already made clear, it is not the case that 58 sectoral impact assessments exist,” reads part of the introduction to the reports. “The Government’s sectoral analysis is a wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum. This report brings together information about the sector in a way that is accessible and informative.”

The reports include a section with the views of organisations in the sectors analysed, but for ICT, fintech and telecommunications, the information was not published. “This information was provided by the Government to the Committee, but the Committee has decided not to publish this section,” said the reports.

This is not surprising as the IT industry has been vocal about the risk Brexit brings, which the government is kean to play down.

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For example, at the TechUK’s annual Supercharging the Digital Economy event in London in October 2017, the assembled audience was polled on what they thought would be the biggest potential hindrance to the UK’s digital economy. The overwhelming majority answered Brexit.

At another event in June, professionals in the technology sector said economic uncertainty and the fear of losing access to a huge customer base and a talented pool of professionals are among the fears for businesses.

Some startup tech companies, including some in the fintech sector, are already planning to move some activity out of the UK.

Asked at the event what would be the best possible outcome of the Brexit negotiations, Trevor Williams, former chief economist at Lloyds Bank and a visiting professor at the University of Derby, said the best outcome would be if the UK does not leave the EU.

“Aside from that, every other outcome is suboptimal,” he said. “The economy is not going to do as well as it would compared to if it stayed in the trade agreement.”

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