Tech companies urge government to rewrite digital strategy post-Brexit

Written by Rebecca Hill on 30 June 2016 in News

TechUK has said that the government needs to consider its yet-to-be-published digital strategy a “draft” that needs reworking following the results of the EU referendum.

Back to the drawing board: TechUK urges government to rewrite digital strategy - Photo credit: Flickr, photosteve101

The group, which represents UK technology companies, has set out a series of demands on government in its Brexit negotiations.

Among them is that the government must not delay the publication of its digital strategy – which was thought to be finished before the referendum but on hold until the results were through – any longer.

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However, TechUK added that the strategy should be updating a post-Brexit world, saying it “needs to be rewritten”.

“The government should publish the existing strategy now as a draft and seek inputs from business about how it can be made fit for purpose for the challenges and opportunities ahead,” the statement said.

“The UK has one chance to get this right,” it added. The approach must be strategic and comprehensive, looking at the whole of the UK’s tech ecosystem. It will fail if it is a collection of headline grabbing gimmicks.”

TechUK said that the “number one priority” for negotiations, though, should be access to the single market, because it allows tech firms to compete for business on equal terms across Europe.

The group also raises concerns about brain-drain following Brexit, saying that retaining and attracting talent is vital to the growth of the UK’s technology industry.

“If the UK can no longer benefit from free movement then a new ‘smart immigration’ policy needs to be put in place”, it said. This should prioritise the needs of the high-value tech sector, but is about more than just policy.

“This isn’t just about getting the bureaucracy right. These people must also feel that they are welcome and valued in the UK.”

In addition, the flow of information cannot be impeded, TechUK said, adding that the government must consider what to do about data protection.

Echoing statements made by the Information Commissioner's Office, TechUK noted that the EU’s data protection regulation will come into force before the UK leaves the union. The government must think carefully about the merits of maintaining, adapting or re-legislating the UK’s data protection laws, it said.

Finally, TechUK said the government must listen not allow the negotiations to “mean paralysis” in other important policy areas.

This includes reforms to planning rules that could reduce costs in rural communications infrastructure developments, and addressing business concerns about the apprenticeship levy.

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