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Uncertainty after Brexit vote 'may cost an incalculable number of UK tech jobs'

Published 22/09/2016

The Brexit vote has had an immediate impact on technology firms, it is claimed
The Brexit vote has had an immediate impact on technology firms, it is claimed

Hi-tech British industries have issued a warning over the impact of Brexit, claiming it is "silently killing" the country's technology sector.

A new survey of the country's fastest growing technology companies found uncertainty over Britain leaving the European Union could cost "an incalculable" number of jobs in a previously thriving industry.

Plus, a new report from Britain's £60 billion life sciences and pharmaceuticals industry has urged the Government to maintain positive relationships around trade and immigration with the European Union to help the industry thrive.

The report from the UK's BioIndustry Association (BIA) and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) was undertaken to help provide "a focus for the sector at an uncertain moment".

The report says post-Brexit Britain should retain trading access to the EU "on terms equivalent to those of a full member of the EU customs union and EU common system of VAT", to minimise the cost of trading.

It also calls for an immigration system which is "needs-based, straightforward, and rapid", to ensure talented students, researchers and workers can continue to be brought in.

The report warns the current uncertainty "is already making it difficult to attract and retain talent", as well as "creating the negative impression that the UK is closed to foreign workers".

Other policies include working within the EU's industry regulator, the European Medicines Agency, as well as coming up with a long-term plan for funding scientific research.

Much of this currently comes through European Union programmes such as Horizons 2020.

The Times has reported that ministers had reservations about the report when it was presented to them earlier this month, saying it was too pro-EU.

However, a spokeswoman for the ABPI said it had been a constructive initial meeting.

She added that further talks were planned once the Government's Brexit strategy had become clearer.

A poll by Magister Advisors, meanwhile, found the Brexit vote has had an immediate impact on technology firms.

Victor Basta, managing director at Magister Advisors, cited one example of a software company choosing to create 100 new engineering jobs in Germany rather than London, a decision taken the day after the referendum.

Mr Basta claimed similar decisions were being taken across the UK tech industry.

Jobs that would automatically be created in the UK are on hold, Magister Advisors found, or worse, permanently shifting abroad.

It says a few start-ups have already relocated, and the Berlin government has commissioned a bus to drive around London promoting the German city as a cheaper tech base guaranteed to remain in the EU.

Mr Basta said: "The reason for all this isn't Brexit itself; no-one can guess what it will actually mean, or how negative its implications.

"The silent killer is the uncertainty Brexit now forces fast-growth companies to confront.

"While the UK Government is admirably working at government warp-speed, unfortunately tech moves 100 times faster.

"An incalculable number of jobs, and future growth, will have shifted elsewhere in Europe by the time Article 50 is triggered, and unless there is unprecedented clarity upfront about what Brexit will actually look like, the best tech companies will have to assume the worst and act accordingly."

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