It has been nearly two months since the UK voted to leave the European Union and we’re still floating in a sea of unsure debris, left to fend for ourselves whilst our MPs fight amongst themselves like school children in the playground. There’s been much talk about the positives and negatives of remaining in the EU or leaving, but what effect will triggering Article 50 have on digital?
Whether a start-up, a fully-fledged business or a freelancer, it’s likely that if your bag is digital then you will, or may already, be feeling the consequences of voting ‘leave.’
Anyone who’s paying for digital goods in dollars or euros will have emptier pockets than they did before the vote. With the pound falling steadily over the last few months it’s now worth 16% less than it was against the dollar 12 months ago, and it’s weaker still against the euro, falling 18%. For those using services like Themeforest, Mailchimp and Amazon Web Services it’s a startling change in rates.
Another consideration is the law. It could actually be beneficial; robust EU data protection laws are potentially open to change once we leave the EU, making UK businesses more competitive. Of course, there’s also the chance that UK businesses will need to run on a EU server to sell to EU countries. In fact, 52% of professionals at the Infosecurity Europe conference believe they will have to comply with EU laws to do business in Europe.
For larger companies who need to hire highly skilled IT and digital specialists Brexit isn’t good news. They need EU migration to employ staff in a country with a shortage of IT workers, and Brexit won’t improve this on-going problem. It could be harder to bring the tech talent in, and the talent that is in the UK could leave.
Investment also plays a large part in digital innovation. According to a techUK poll, 70% supported remaining in the EU because they felt membership made the UK an attractive choice for international investment. The EU Digital Single Market Initiative aims to improve access to digital goods and services alongside offering an environment where digital networks and services can prosper, allowing digital to be a driver for growth. By becoming a single digital market instead of 28 separate markets, the initiative believes that it could contribute €415 billion per year to the economy, creating many thousands of jobs. By leaving the EU the UK will lose access to a €500 million EU network of digital hubs that offer advice and a testing environment for digital innovations. It’s expected that this initiative will receive €50 billion of investments in support of industry digitisation. Will this investment be lost when we leave the EU?
Of course, we will be waiting at least two years and possibly longer, with no sign of Article 50 thus far, and until then it’s all best guesses and licking a finger and putting it to the skies to predict the way Brexit might affect digital business, law and investment. Between now and then there will be many media stories, opinion pieces and so-called experts putting in their two pence worth.
One thing is certain though: digital is a huge area of growth, and Exeter is certainly on trend, growing 41% between 2010 and 2014 according to the Tech Nation 2016 report. For now at least, it looks like digital will manage to weather the storm.