MAKING A SUCCESS OF BREXIT
The nature of technology and online businesses means that economic activity is virtually borderless, with smaller businesses in particular benefitting from the ability to more easily access the EU's 500million consumers. Losing access – virtual or otherwise – to our biggest trading partner and consumer base should be avoided so that our tech sector can continue to thrive.
Working toward a digital single market in Europe – and the possible £1.7billion reward its completion could bring to our capital by 2030  – has been a sought after prize for the tech sector in recent years and we should continue to exercise influence to shape it, as well as seeking to access it upon leaving the EU.
There are a number of areas of EU law that will continue to be important to the UK technology sector after we leave the EU, one of the most prominent of which is data protection. In an increasingly interconnected world, data is at the heart of doing business.
The UK is a world-leader in promoting data-enabled innovation across all sectors, not just technology. In order to have a thriving tech sector and pioneering digital economy, we need a robust, internationally recognised data protection framework that allows us to trade and process EU data.
Digital and technical skills are critical to all sectors, especially the technology sector. These skills are often in short supply, and as such competition for them is great, with salaries for 'digital' jobs averaging at around £50,000  – much more than the national average salary.
Out of necessity, tech businesses look for these skills abroad, with some businesses employing as many as 70% non UK nationals, as well as deploying lots of UK staff to the EU and beyond. Access to priority skills, and the ability to deploy them elsewhere freely, will be important for the technology sector and the wider digital economy.
At present, UK technology companies are also able to transfer data safely and easily between the UK and the US, and several other international countries, as a result of EU agreements.
It will be important to preserve these arrangements in new forms. Prioritisation of this can play an important role in supporting the UK's reputation as a global technology hub.
There are numerous regulatory cliff edges that the technology sector faces if the UK leaves the EU without any deal or interim arrangement. While some uncertainty could be mitigated by direct coping of EU rules before exit, the UK needs to provide clarity on key regulatory issues going forward. Business critical issues such as data protection require the UK government to secure an adequacy decision from the EU, a process that the UK government needs to initiate as soon as possible. For the UK to remain a leading digital economy, a smooth exit is required and this mean identifying regulatory cliff edges and solving them through comprehensive UK-EU arrangements or interim deals.
For technology at the CBI, contact: Roxanne Morison on 0207 395 8043 or Roxanne.Morison@cbi.org.uk