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Posted on 15 June, 2016 in

In or Out: How Will the EU Referendum Affect the British Tech Industry?


A poll released by Tech London Advocates back in March shows that 87% of its members are in favour for remaining in the EU, whilst only 3% were in favour for leaving and the other 10% declining to give their stance. The high percentage of members choosing Bremain indicates that fears over the damage to the British Tech sector from leaving the EU remain high. The tech sector has always been a distinctly globalised one with recent figures suggesting that one in five directors of tech companies in the UK are European nationals. Pro-remain campaigners believe that leaving the EU and the free-market will make Britain appear less attractive to investors. They fear that many European tech investors will pack up and leave.

However, despite the majority opinion, this is not a universally accepted view. From a business perspective, some have argued that leaving the EU would encourage Britain’s investment capabilities in a single market as they are no longer restricted by a larger economic body. Citing business success in Russia as an example, co-founder of Bambino Mio, Guy Schanschieff argues that the EU is not a necessity required in order for businesses to thrive. Schanschieff also denies that Britain would move to “the back of the queue” for a transatlantic free-trade deal as warned by US President Barack Obama back in April. Schanschieff’s opinions are that of a minority as many have heeded warnings regarding the free-trade deal and opt for Bremain. The majority of business owners also feel Britain would operate better with a safety net as the economy continues to recover.

 

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The possibility of economic downfall for both Britain and Europe is becoming an increasingly realistic issue, as recent reports show the pound continues to weaken and polls by YouGov and The Times suggest that the leave campaign is currently prevailing. The polls change frequently and erratically so it may be difficult to evidence a direct correlation between currency weakness and the leave campaign, however, it’s been shown that over two-thirds of the biggest British and European companies want Britain to remain in the EU.

 

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As London continues to thrive as a tech powerhouse in Europe, critics and supporters of the Brexit campaign continue to battle out the possible benefits and consequences of a leave vote. The majority allegiance to the remain campaign, as well as evidence which shows that technically skilled British workers are in short supply, ­suggests that it would be more beneficial to remain in the EU. The Global, a talent-sourcing recruitment company, found that 51% of its candidates placed in UK tech start-ups came from outside the UK.

 

This evidence indicates that whilst we need to improve our own curriculum to make sure students are taught technical skills from a young age, inviting European nationals to come work for us strengthens our investing power as well as our international relationships within the tech industry. Global tech giant Microsoft recently came out in support for the Bremain campaign in a letter to its 5000 British employees in which it argued that:

‘Historically, the UK being part of the EU has been one of several important criteria that make it one of the most attractive places in Europe for the range of investments we have made.’

Large multi-national companies are attracted to the UK as a developing technology hub partially due to our strong ties with Europe, which has been orchestrated by the European Union. The solidarity that is offered to us by the EU is something th­­­at cannot simply be squandered away by a minority of businesses wishing to seek free-trade agreement across the Atlantic and independence within the market. ­

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