UK Tech Industry Letter to the Prime Minister
Dear Prime Minister
We, the signatories of this letter, represent businesses from across the British technology industry and are writing to express our deep concerns over Brexit.
It is our view that the government’s draft “Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration on leaving the European Union” will not serve the best interests of the UK tech industry. It will vastly increase friction in trade with the EU and impose significant and costly changes for the tech industry. It will not solve any of the real and serious problems we explain below, it simply kicks the can down the road to December 2020 (itself an unworkable date by which to have established a long-term UK/EU partnership) and would make the UK a rule-taker with no say at a time when the EU is already engaging in fundamental reshaping of the technology industry from regulation to tax to antitrust.
We, therefore, believe that Members of Parliament should NOT support the agreement (whether in the ‘meaningful vote’ or otherwise) and should instead vote for a new, fresh, referendum, a ‘People’s Vote’, on Brexit, with the option to remain in the EU, based on the knowledge we have now of what it means for the UK.
The products and services produced by the UK tech industry are used by millions of people around the UK and hundreds of millions worldwide. We have one of the fastest-growing, most productive and export-led UK industries, worth nearly £184 billion to the UK economy, up from £170 billion in 2016. The tech sector is expanding 2.6 times faster than the rest of the UK economy, employs over 2 million people and attracts billions in foreign investment. These are the government’s own figures.
It’s also highly diverse, with more black, Asian and ethnic minority workers employed in tech than across the UK in general (15% v 10%). Some estimates put the percentage of EU workers inside the UK tech industry at over a fifth of the sector. This is a healthy and growing diversity of which we are proud.
Brexit is a dire threat to the UK tech industry. Leaving the EU’s customs union, single market, Digital Single Market, VAT area, data area and regulatory framework (in whole or part) will tear apart the bedrock on which our industry operates and cause us grave harm.
Brexit is already causing serious uncertainty, raising costs and threatening future red tape. Post-Brexit our products and companies face the real risk of becoming hard to create, fund and scale globally, especially in the vast market of the EU.
Anecdotally, we know many of the innovative startups of the future are, in the light of Brexit’s uncertainty, looking to other EU cities to relocate to, or simply bypassing the UK altogether.
With Brexit, we foresee greater problems in hiring global talent (risking, over time, a UK brain drain), as well as the ‘founders of the future,’ from other countries, simply not arriving in the first place.
The loss of access to EU funding, such as that which goes into breakthrough innovation (e.g. Horizon2020), the flight of talent which powers UK tech companies due to the uncertainty around immigration — all of these factors are adversely affecting the UK tech industry.
This is all when we should be growing our position as a British success story, and one which was, prior to Brexit, maintaining and boosting our position as a global leader in technology. Instead, the country's affairs are simply consumed by Brexit.
Now that we know what the ‘Brexit options’ look like, it is critical to find a way out of this mess. As we have explained, the May government’s strategy, with the Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration it involves, will not and cannot solve these issues.
We therefore ask you to support a ‘final say’ on Brexit with a ‘People’s Vote’ referendum (with the option to remain, and lead, in the EU) to allow our industry, our customers and the country a say on the final Brexit outcome.
The UK Tech Industry
(Drafted by TechForUK.com and BestForBritain.org)
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