UK residents woke up this morning to the unexpected news that we have voted to leave the European Union, with the Brexit campaign sealing 52 per cent of the 30million+ votes to come out on top.
This, along with David Cameron's resignation, has left the country in a state of flux, but what does it mean for the technology sector in the UK? Various industry professionals have offered their thought and analysis.
Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent:
“This result is a big blow to the UK’s micro-business sector and I think that a lot of people will be very concerned about what the future will hold. It was clear during the run up to the referendum that the overwhelming majority of micro-business owners and freelancers were in favour of the UK remaining in the EU, and that they did not think a ‘Brexit’ would be beneficial for their own businesses or the economy in general.
“The ramifications of leaving the EU are going to be huge - especially for small businesses who sell products and services worldwide, rather than just domestically. And we now look set for a lengthy period of uncertainty while negotiations presumably take place over the terms of the UK’s exit.
“I would therefore urge the government to be as swift as possible in providing updates about how these discussions are progressing, and give every business owners in the UK clear, up-to-date information about what the effects of Brexit will be on important issues such as trade and tax. The last thing the business sector needs is to be kept in the dark.”
Peter Galdies, Development Director at DQM GRC:
"In my view the long term impact of a "Brexit" on the legislative framework for privacy will probably not be hugely significant. After Article 50 is invoked which gives our official "notice" to leave the EU (which now looks likely to be after October 2016), there will be a mandatory 2-year MINIMUM period in which we remain a member of the EU whilst we negotiate an exit. During this time all existing legislation (including GDPR) will continue as before. Many forecast that this process might take much longer - with many estimates between 3 and 6 years.
"The many organisations which already manage or contain personal data relating to EU/EEA state citizens (clients, prospects or employees) will continue to have to manage that data according to the requirements of the GDPR regardless of "Brexit", or they will be in breach of the GDPR and risk large fines - so for many organisations nothing will change – the GDPR will apply even when we leave."
Michael Kent, CEO and founder of Azimo:
“We’re disappointed that the British electorate has decided to leave the European Union. Here at Azimo we passionately believe that the world needs less borders not more.”
“As we've said before, this is also a blow to London’s financial services industry: many companies here depend on both EU market access and the ability and legal right to passport their services to the rest of Europe. I anticipate that we’ll see many finance players moving some, or potentially all, operations to elsewhere in Europe. Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Dublin are all obvious candidates.”
“As an entrepreneur, the most difficult part about this entire debate and vote has been the uncertainty it has created. Even now that we know that the final decision is to "Leave" the European Union, we do not know how this is going to evolve in the next few months and it could even take years. The good news is that the FinTech industry is thriving across the whole of Europe at the moment, should London’s position as the heart of European FinTech now change as a result of this vote."
Matt Hunt, CEO of Apadmi Enterprise:
“The UK and EU are markets that have continued to offer tech businesses huge growth potential and the international business community has been overwhelmingly supportive of our industry. Technology does not observe boundaries and we have been lucky to enjoy an inspiring array of tech from the UK, Europe and even further afield, which we have been able to access and use for the benefit of our customers.
"The UK tech industry has been in a strong position and the only limitations we’ve faced to do business has been our own ability. With the impending Brexit, there is now a high level of risk and uncertainty over our future and questions are being asked as to how will we be able to build on our success and further grow without the support of the EU.”
Michael Hack, Senior Vice President of EMEA Operations at Ipswitch:
“Companies who have dealings with the EU have been busily preparing to comply with the new EU data protection law, the GDPR. Now the UK is out it will be governed by a different data protection regime
"However, it will still need to adhere to suitable data protection measures in order to transfer data to and from the EU. So in many regards, the requirements of the GDPR will still apply and it is back to the business of preparing for it."
Mike Conradi, telecoms partner at DLA Piper:
"It may now be much more difficult for UK telecoms operators to do business and remain competitive in Europe. The European Union telecommunications regulatory regime set out to create a common set of principles across the continent. As a result, the UK's own system is strongly affected by European law, although the UK regulator, OFCOM, is seen very much as the model for others to follow.
"Depending on the terms of exit which will now be negotiated, the result may provide the UK Government with the power to free up the telecommunications sector from any regulation with which it disagrees. An example being the new rules on 'net neutrality', which could apply significant constraints on EU telecoms businesses and their retail propositions.
"Consumers may be forced to bear the burden of Brexit as it's unclear whether or not they will be entitled to benefit from the 'Roaming Regulation', which aims to reduce roaming charges across the continent. There is also uncertainty for consumers around the charges national operators will impose when making call outside of an individual's domestic market.
"It may be that operators insist on price increases, making it much more expensive for some UK users to make calls to mobile numbers in certain countries."
Aftab Afzal, SVP & GM EMEA at NSFOCUS IB:
"Brexit will have impact on the industry as a whole. However it is too early to speculate on this being positive or negative. The coming weeks and months will be a telling time. Cyber security is a global challenge and not EU specific. With the vote being so close, the unrest will translate into some increased cyber attacks and organisations at the forefront should take extra caution. As many cyber security vendors report dollar revenues, currency market volatility could see some prices increased.
"I do not foresee any big changes short term in cross border collaboration in cyber security. Longer term, the vendors with global research teams who contribute to intelligence communities will play a bigger role in cooperation, as cyber security has always been a global issue.
"GDPR is just one of many compliance drivers that ensure sensitive and personal data is handled with care. Compliance is born from best practices and when or if the UK mandates a new data policy, the main tenants of GDPR will no doubt be considered as the Government has to ensure the public safety, both physically and virtually.”
Tudor Aw, head of technology sector at KPMG UK:
“A poll of TechUK members prior to the EU referendum showed that some 70 per cent were in favour of remain. Today’s result is therefore disappointing for the industry. That said, I remain optimistic and confident over the future of UK Tech.
“My view is that the core attributes that make the UK Tech sector so strong and attractive remain in place, including an amazing talent base that has a long track record of creativity such as Alan Turing’s first working computer to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web. Add to that the great infrastructure and facilities; first class universities, a stable legal system; appropriate fiscal incentives; and an ecosystem of advisors that support the needs of tech companies.Technology is a sector that will only increase in importance and works without borders.
"I therefore continue to see the UK Tech sector as one that will not only withstand the immediate challenges of the referendum result, but one that will continue to grow and thrive.”
Richard Patterson, director of Comparitech.com:
“With the announcement this morning that the UK has decided to leave the EU, it could spell bad news for privacy. The Investigatory Powers Bill, or Snooper’s Charter as it’s more aptly dubbed, is imminent pending a review in the House of Lords. This would enable ‘bulk hacking’ of communications on a large scale from GCHQ on whole towns, for instance. Without the checks and balances that the EU Courts provide, an important role in overruling over zealous government laws which could erode privacy is taken away and there is a real danger that privacy as we know it will hang in the balance.
“A recent OnePoll survey carried out on behalf of Comparitech.com found that almost half of the population was unsure about the effect Brexit would have on their privacy. The erosion of privacy rights issue may have slipped through the backdoor while everyone was focusing on immigration and spending.
"But if privacy is something that concerns you, now is the time to make it known to your Local MP and push back to protect your civil liberties.”
Image source: Shutterstock/Alterov