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Mayor Of London 2016: UKIP – London Tech Would Benefit From EU Brexit

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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UKIP’s Peter Whittle says he is committed to London’s tech scene, and thinks it would be better off if the UK left the EU

London’s tech sector would be better off if the UK was no longer a member of the European Union (EU), according to the UKIP candidate Peter Whittle.

“The tech industry is one of London’s best assets right now,” he said at DebateTech earlier this year. “UKIP places huge importance in this sector.

“[However] British businesses are strangled by the weight of regulation and directives that come from Brussels. Even if they do not trade with the EU, all businesses have to deal with EU regulations.”

EU membership

london black cabWhittle claimed EU red tape costs SMBs in all industries between £33 billion and £90 billion – costs which could be saved if the UK votes for Brexit on 23 June.

“I believe that none of this needs to be the case,” he continued. “Tech businesses would be better off outside the EU.

“The mayor should do everything within his or her powers to promote the tech industry, but as this stands, there is very little point in increasing trade missions when as a member of the EU, we do not control our own trade.”

“The wonderful thing about being a free and independent nation again [if the UK leaves the EU] is we could take on the global economy we’re all talking about.”

Is the British technology industry better off with the UK as an EU member?

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Business support

Whittle said a UKIP-run City Hall would tackle the issue of affordable business space, connectivity and skills for the tech sector, but UKIP’s London manifesto appears to lack any specific policies for the industry.

Indeed, many of the measures he suggested at DebateTech appeared dependent on central government cooperation and a departure from the EU. He said UKIP as a party was committed to abolishing university tuition fees for STEM subjects and said a Brexit vote would allow London tech firms to recruit more skilled overseas talent.

“The kind of people the tech industry needs, like software developers, come from places like India, and the USA,” he explained. “They have to go through so many hoops. But someone from the EU has an automatic right to be here and that is putting a lot of pressure on non-EU immigrants.

Is London better off?

EU Brexit referedum“The only way you can rid of that and have a completely level playing field is to have an Australian point system and leave the EU.”

Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith is in favour of Brexit, but the other three major runners – Saidq Khan (Labour), Caroline Pidgeon (Liberal Democrat) and Sian Berry (Green) – want continued membership.

Research from industry body techUK suggest that 70 percent of its members want to stay in the EU, 15 percent want to leave and 15 percent don’t know. The majority support the UK’s membership because it makes the country more attractive to international investment, makes the UK more globally competitive and gives it a more favourable trading relationship with other members.

A separate survey from Tech London Advocates found 87 percent of its members opposed Brexit.

Quiz: What do you know about London and tech?