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UK Tech Industry Pressures Government Over Brexit Impact

As News Editor of Silicon UK, Roland keeps a keen eye on the daily tech news coverage for the site, while also focusing on stories around cyber security, public sector IT, innovation, AI, and gadgets.

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An open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May raises concerns around the impact leaving the EU will have on the UK’s tech industry

Tech entrepreneurs have put pressure on the government to come up with plans on how it will retain technical talent, investments and fellow entrepreneurs when Britain leaves the European Union.

Reuters reported that in an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, nine leading tech entrepreneurs, including Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom, called on the government to take action to ensure the flow of skilled migrants into Britain after Article 50 is fired.

The letter also addressed other issues that could affect London’s successful technology startup scene, such as access to the EU market.

Tech industry verses Brexit

EU Brexit referedum“The No. 1 concern for entrepreneurs post-Brexit is access to talent, in particular technical talent,” the letter said. “Quotas on specific skills could severely limit the ability of new tech companies to grow.”

While both the Tory government and its coalition predecessor have been fairly proactive in supporting the UK’s technology industry with plans to support major companies like Google and Facebook in setting up major offices in the capital, as well as push the rollout of superfast broadband, it has not put much focus on supporting migrant workers with digital skills that form an important part of the tech sector’s workforce.

The Tory lead coalition government scrapped the Post Study Work Visa in 2012 which has enabled students from outside the EU to remain in Britain to work after completing university. This had raised concerns amongst the tech sector on the challenge it poses to attracting and retaining skilled workers.

This situation could be compounded if Britain’s move to leave the EU results in the freedom of movement regulations, which allows anyone to cross borders freely and EU citizens to work in any of the member countries, is abandoned by the UK.

Silicon UK has met numerous skilled European workers with technical skills that have been snapped up by Facebook in London or have found their way into startups working on cutting edge technology.

But if the UK’s borders are closed access to that talent could be curtailed, either stopping the flow of EU-based migrant workers into Britain completely or introducing a tricky visa process that could put talented individuals from bringing their skills to the UK’s technology industry.

The flipside to the reticence of the technology industry to the pro-Brexit result of this year’s referendum, is that some tech giants will keep operating as normal within Britain, notably Amazon which will not stop building AWS data centres in Britain.

Quiz: What do you know about European technology?