The government has formally attributed the continued delay of its digital strategy to last summer’s vote to leave the European Union in a response to a parliamentary report.
In its response to July’s Digital Economy report by the House of Commons’ Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee the government said it was working with digital companies to better represent their interestsin the wake of the vote.
“Following the decision of the British people to leave the European Union, we have been engaging closely with the digital industries to understand their priorities, and will continue to do so,” the government stated.
It noted an investment of £2 billion of public spending on research and development a year by 2020-21 and £1 billion investment in digital infrastructure announced in the chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
“We will continue to work with industry to ensure that our digital and industrial strategies help boost growth and productivity across the country and across the economy,” the government wrote.
In its report, the committee had said it “regretted” the delay to the strategy and called on the government to explain the reasons for it.
As of July the strategy was already six months later than had been expected, but the government did not comment on the pre-vote delay.
Following the vote the committee called upon the government to explain how the referendum would affect the strategy and to set out a specific list of current EU negotiations that relate to the digital economy.
In response the government said decisions around priorities for negotiations with the EU would be taken by the prime minister “in due course”, and that in the meantime the UK remains subject to EU legislation and the government would continue to represent British interests within EU institutions.
It listed current negotiations relating to copyright law, geoblocking, consumer protection, digital single market VAT and an initiative on the free flow of data, amongst others.
The response reiterated the government’s commitment to making the UK an attractive market for digital businesses.
”The decision taken by the British people to leave the European Union will clearly change our relationship with the EU, but it will not stop our progress toward a more digital economy,” the government stated.
“We are engaging with the digital sector to understand their perspectives in following the referendum result, and are committed to ensuring that the UK retains its reputation as one of the best places in the world to start, scale up and invest in a digital business.”
Earlier this month Stephen Metcalfe, chair of the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee, issued the latest criticism of the government for the digital strategy delay, arguing that other projects – such as its approach to developing critical digital skills – depend upon the broader plan.
Metcalfe made his remarks in an open letter to digital minister Matt Hancock upon parliament’s publication of the government’s response to the committee’s digital skills report.
He noted that that response, too, took an unusually long time to produce, coming six months after the report, instead of the usual two – as was also the case with the response to the digital economy report.
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