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Digital Business Lawyer

UK proposes Industrial Strategy as tech industry outlines Brexit priorities

The UK Prime Minister Theresa May launched proposals for a modern Industrial Strategy (‘Strategy’) on 23 January 2017 in order to drive industry growth across the UK, in a move which follows the announcement that the UK will leave the European Single Market and possibly also the European Economic Area as a result of Brexit. The plans unveiled for a ‘Global Britain’ are designed as an offer to businesses to strike new sector deals, with the Government prepared to offer a range of support to boost industry, which will include addressing regulatory barriers to innovation and growth and the creation of new institutions to boost skills.

“Much depends on the outcome of Brexit, the shape it takes, the trade deals that the UK can secure and the regulatory environment that follows,” said Mark Webber, US Managing Partner at Fieldfisher. The Strategy pinpoints technologies in which Britain has strengths in research and development which could be supported by the Government’s new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, such technologies include robotics and artificial intelligence and 5G mobile network technology.

Following the decision to leave the EU, the UK’s position in the Digital Single Market remains uncertain and Webber believes that whether or not, post Brexit, the UK follows or diverges from the EU digital regulatory framework will be a critical point to consider, especially given the effect it may have on the digital economy. “The EU framework is far from perfect, but divergence could mean increased compliance costs for UK digital businesses that trade on an EU wide basis, and could make the UK a less obvious choice for technology businesses seeking a European base,” adds Webber.

A report produced by Frontier Economics on ‘The UK Digital Sectors After Brexit,’ published on 24 January 2017 and commissioned by techUK, the industry body representing technology companies in the UK, identified the three key areas of the UK’s digital economy most at risk from the impact of Brexit as market access and digital trade, access to skills and the free flow of data. “A disorderly Brexit would be highly disruptive and must be avoided,” explains Charlotte Holloway, Policy Director at techUK. In response to the research, techUK has set out four key asks for the Government as Brexit negotiations get underway, which include a realistic and robust plan to ensure UK digital industries can thrive post Brexit; ensure continued market access and regulatory certainty; set out a credible plan to ensure the UK remains open to the best international talent; and ensure there is a robust legal process in place for cross border data transfers.

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