Brexit: majority of technology professionals for remain
Written by: Laurence Doe | Published:

Juniper Research has revealed that 65 per cent of the UK technology professionals it surveyed believe Brexit “would have a negative impact on the tech industry”.

The research paper, Brexit – the Tech Industry Take (published on 20 June), surveyed 109 UK technology professionals to reveal that of those, one in three British respondents believed the outcome of Brexit would either be positive or have no impact on the global tech industry. It also found that 16 per cent Britons believe that Brexit will have a positive impact compared to eight per cent of the remaining 104 respondents from 41 different countries.

Amongst UK respondents who believe that Brexit would have a negative impact on the tech industry, 72 per cent claimed that it would be harder for UK tech firms to attract and employ individuals from EU countries. This figure was lower (56 per cent) amongst non-UK respondents.

Nearly two-thirds of UK respondents who believe Brexit would have a negative impact claimed the industry would suffer as a result of reduced funding from the EU for the UK tech sector and that London would be less attractive as a tech hub. Amongst all respondents who believe that Brexit would have a negative effect, the reason most often cited (by 67 per cent of such respondents) was that the UK would no longer be able to influence EU policy-making in the tech sector.

This view is backed by 72 per cent of individuals at director level and above who believe that Brexit would have a negative effect, or 49 per cent of all respondents who are at director level and above overall.

Almost all (85 per cent) of those supporting Brexit for having a positive impact on the tech industry claimed that any boost would be the result of a UK tech industry not being restricted by EU red tape. These respondents are also more likely to consider the cost of the EU to be the biggest issue in the referendum debate.

Nearly half (46 per cent) of those in favour of Brexit believe that new deals with other countries will compensate for the loss of EU trade conditions. In addition, 87 per cent of those who felt that the tech sector would be unaffected by Brexit cited the global nature of the tech industry and how it is largely unaffected by political or geographic boundaries.

“A vote to leave would result in the government invoking Article 50 TEU, which would begin a two-year period of negotiation for a withdrawal agreement, after which the EU treaties would no longer apply,” stated Ewan Sutherland, an independent telecoms policy analyst in a note on Brexit. “The unpopular ‘Norway Option’ would result in signing the European Economic Area (EEA) Treaty, which would re-impose most of the obligations and costs of EU membership. Otherwise, there would be considerable freedom for the government to develop new policies and legislation, subject to whatever trade agreements it could reach with other countries.”

Mike Goddard, international spectrum policy advisor for independent wireless expert firm Real Wireless, said in a blog post that while Brexit would allow the UK to take a different approach to spectrum decisions to the rest of the EU, he couldn’t think of any changes that should take place.

“Taking the example of Decision 2007/98/EC, which harmonises the use of spectrum in the 2GHz bands for mobile satellite services that have yet to emerge, there are already plans in motion in the UK for operators to implement such services,” said Goddard. “But more importantly, satellite services by their very nature must be regulated at an international level, therefore I doubt the UK would change direction even when it is not formally bound by the EU Decisions.

“Going it alone in our allocation and use of spectrum would also ultimately lead to equipment becoming more expensive to implement, raise the risk of cross-border interference, and reduce the long-term certainty around allocations. At most we’ll see some minor relaxation of certain restrictions on the use of spectrum, or in implementation timelines.

“Finally, the UK will likely remain a member of — and play an active role in — CEPT. This is the body that is responsible for much of the detailed spectrum harmonisation efforts we see in European countries, but it is not restricted to EU countries alone. As such, the UK’s involvement in these discussions will not disappear — and there’s no reason to think the government or regulators would change that," concluded Goddard.

“The repatriation of policy-making and legislative scrutiny from the EU institutions would require ‘beefing up’ of governmental and parliamentary capabilities,” continued Sutherland in his note. “It would also require a much deeper engagement with business and consumer groups, not least to counter the special pleading of the operators, which have considerable expertise and experience in lobbying. Additionally, it would be important to boost the provision of independent views, both from academic researchers and think tanks. Without a rich debate on policies for telecommunications, the potential benefits of Brexit would be lost, with the greatest risk being in a mishandled transition.”

Read more about the implications of a possible Brexit in Chris Pateman's article: What would Brexit mean for the UK's wireless comms industry?

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