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Article 50: Is there still hope for the tech industry?

Posted by: Roisin Evans 12 Apr 17  | Current Issues |  Technology

On March 29th, we saw PM Theresa May trigger Article 50 initiating Brexit: the two year process of Britain divorcing the European Union. 

There is no doubt that Brexit will bring a lot of changes to the UK, but how will the UK’s departure from the EU effect the tech industry?
London jumps to 5th place as world tech hub

The truth of the matter is, no one can really predict how things will be after the UK finally leaves the European Union in 2 years’ time. However, tech leaders remain hopeful for a prosperous post Brexit Britain.

At present there are promising signs for the UK, with London’s positioning actually jumping from 7th place to 5th place, as a major tech hub in the world. Experts believe the jump is largely due to a recent £2 billion research and development fund promised by the Government in the 2017 spring budget.

Global leader’s opinions

In an interview posted by WIRED, global tech leaders gave their opinions on how they believe businesses and entrepreneurs will be affected by Brexit. The results were somewhat positive.
"I suspect a hard Brexit will mean very little for UK tech. If a company makes a compelling product, it will still find a market in Europe after Brexit, just as it finds a market in the US today”.

Eben Upton (Founder, Raspberry Pi Foundation):

"As an entrepreneur, I'm naturally optimistic. This could be an opportunity for the UK to create a better environment for entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Taavet Hinrikus (Co-founder, TransferWise):

Hard or Soft Brexit?

Despite the UK’s strong standing position within world’s ever growing tech industry, experts do warn that Britain is not immune to the potential threats that come along with our eventual departure from the European Union.

If the UK were to take a hard Brexit approach. This would restrict access of EU nationals working in the UK. Naturally this would weaken the UK’s position in the tech industry due to the loss of access to the global talent pool.

Leaders urge for new visa scheme

For the time being the rights of EEA nationals have not changed. With countries such as Switzerland and Amsterdam fast evolving into tech hubs the competition for talent is fierce and EEA nationals may begin to seek employment elsewhere. To avoid missing out on talent to competing countries, suggestions have been made for a new minimum six-month high-skilled visa to ensure that the UK IT sector has access to talent from overseas.

If laws prevent the UK from accessing talent on international level, then we run the risk of seriously effecting our position as a global tech leader. However, if the government uses the opportunity to rationalise their immigration policy, then potentials hoping to work in the UK could be in a much better situation then they are in today.

Tech Giants show support for a Britain to remain a tech hub

Further reassurance can be found from the top two tech giants in the industry. Recently, Google has put their expansions plans into motion, developing a brand new London HQ which will hold up to 7,000 employees. In 2017, Facebook also have plans to expand their UK workforce by 50%, which will make it up to 500 employees. Support from these tech giants is a positive sign and reconfirms that London is one of the biggest tech hubs in the world.

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