Brexit vote is a blow to the UK's tech brains

So, against most of the late polls, against the bookmakers’ odds and against the expectations of the financial markets, the UK is to leave the European Union. Today in London it was hard not to avoid a queasy atmosphere with ‘in’ voters looking nervously across at fellow commuters and lowering their voices as they expressed surprise at the outcome. The cliché is that Britain has become a country divided - and the cliché is true.

For the technology industry the outcome is a body blow, or perhaps a blow to the cerebellum. The UK has a significant and growing technology sector that has been much bolstered in recent years by local and international investments. We have veterans of the software world like Sage, headquartered in Newcastle. A healthy chop of startups such as Mimecast in London and Anaplan in York is reaching maturity. The big global players like IBM, Microsoft, Google and Facebook maintain large presences here. Almost all of these would have preferred the continuity and absence of ambiguity that a ‘stay’ vote would have offered. Unusually, Microsoft’s UK CEO Michel van der Bel was outspoken in the run up to referendum, saying that a Remain decision would be to the benefit of the software giant.

But it’s highly unlikely that Brexit will equal a sudden exit from the UK, and perhaps fairly unlikely that it will equal even a moderately paced shift away. The UK offers access to large international airports, the world’s largest financial centre (at least for now), a highly educated global and multilingual population, large media and creative companies, and decent (could do better) infrastructure. But most of these benefits, it should be noted, are skewed sharply to London and its environs.

It’s by no means certain what happens next although a series of media coinages for potential French and other exits from Europe seems a safe bet. Threats to leave will be revealed as ‘truth’ or ‘bluff’. But the next time companies seek to make decisions on their long-term futures they may consider a location that, at least for now, is more central to European thinking, and promises more economic and political stability, than the islands adrift in the sea.


Also read:

IDG Connect Brexit round-up

Data expert: Brexit referendum is on a razor’s edge
Partha Sen, CEO of data analytics firm Fuzzy Logix, offers his view on what the data says

What social media tells us about Brexit
An overview of social media’s role in the referendum so far, and data insights about the upcoming vote

Brexit vote fever has been heated by social media
Social networks have been the home ground for crass debate over UK membership of the EU

Data expert sees narrow Remain vote
Fuzzy Logix CEO has analysed the numbers and, for now, expects the UK to stay in the EU

‘Brexit’: techUK members definitely want to stay in Europe
Antony Walker, Deputy CEO of techUK, discusses the latest ‘Brexit’ research from members

‘Brexit’: The tech case for and against
The director of technology at UK think tank Parliament Street presents the case to leave the EU. The deputy CEO of techUK explains why the tech community wants to stay.

UK IT pros have their say on the prospect of a ‘Brexit’
We asked a variety of IT professionals in the UK whether they think the UK should stay in the EU

TechUK reaffirms tech’s Pro-Europe stance, but change is wanted
The UK tech scene says yes to Europe, with caveats

UK IT pros say no to a Brexit
New research reveals UK IT sector is in favour of remaining in the Union

Brexit – politics vs business
UK politicians aren’t on the same page as businesses


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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