Brexit response: Five-point plan to power UK growth

The UK tech sector has been the outstanding success of the UK economy over the last decade and will be vital to the UK’s success in a post Brexit world.

There is now a national imperative to put a plan in place that allows the UK tech sector to power the UK back to growth. Politicians need to listen to and engage with businesses that are committed to quickly getting Britain back on track.

Based on extensive discussions with tech companies, techUK today sets out five top initial priorities for Government:

  1. Access to the Single Market must be the primary objective of any UK negotiation

Access to the single market allows tech firms to compete for business on equal terms across Europe, generating jobs and growth and is a key factor in the UK’s ability to attract foreign investment. Maintaining access to the single market must be the number one objective of any new relationship with Europe.

  1. Retaining and attracting talent is vital to the success and growth of UK tech

The UK tech sector has thrived on its ability to attract the best skills and entrepreneurial talent from across Europe. These people have been integral to UK tech’s success. 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.

  1. Work should start now on securing international data flows and data protection

Tech businesses are data driven and depend upon 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. New European data protection laws are likely to enter into force before the UK leaves the EU. Urgent consideration should be given to the relative merits of maintaining, adapting or completely re-legislating the UK’s data protection laws.

It seems likely that the UK will may have to strike some form of agreement similar to the EU US Privacy Shield in order to ensure cross border data flows. Amendments may be required to the UK Investigatory Powers Bill. Work needs to start now in full partnership with industry to develop solutions that position the UK as a global data leader.

  1. Government must take every opportunity to do business as usual and listen hard to tech

To address immediate concerns about the impact of the referendum, Government must demonstrate that uncertainty does not have to mean paralysis. There are many policy and funding decisions that should not be delayed by the EU Referendum outcome. For example, reforms to planning rules and wayleaves that would dramatically reduce costs and delays in rural communications infrastructure deployments should now be fast tracked. Meanwhile Government must listen again and be willing to compromise on big initiatives such as the Apprenticeship Levy. Strong and legitimate business concerns must be addressed if the Levy is to succeed. Now is not the time to make the business environment any more difficult for tech businesses.

  1. Work with business now on a new Digital Strategy for this new world

A new Digital Strategy was expected to be published shortly and now needs to be re-written. Government should do this in collaboration with tech businesses. 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.

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