Brexit’s Impact on the TMT Sector
While Silicon Valley stands alone, it could be fairly argued that the UK generally – and London specifically – represented an EU version of its more renowned US counterpart. The amount of tech firms – large and small – that had made the UK their home, thanks to access to skilled employees drawn to the country by its higher education sector and freedom of movement benefits, access to venture capital, and a favourable regulatory environment, is testament to the UK’s appeal.
Politically, too, the UK was a key driver. The Government’s Vision for the EU’s Digital Economy of January 2015 showed exactly where its priorities lay: unapologetically pro-consumer in sentiment, it envisaged a fully-functioning DSM, enabling seamless cross-border access to digital content – in many ways a precursor to the Commission’s DSM Strategy that followed.
This was reflected in the European Council, where, together with similarly-minded Member States (Denmark, Estonia, Sweden and the Netherlands), the UK was keen to drive forward pro-digital policies.
To date, the UK has had considerable influence in the European Parliament (EP) via its MEPs. Vicky Ford (Conservatives – ECR) is Chair of the IMCO (Internal Market and Consumer Protection) Committee, which has jurisdiction over single market proposals related to e-commerce. Ford has been a vociferous advocate for DSM, rejecting protectionist impulses from some European capitals and opposing attempts to adopt a “fortress Europe” approach to digital regulation. Claude Moraes (Labour – S&D) – Chair of the LIBE (Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs) Committee – played an influential role in negotiating the General Data Protection Regulation in the EP.
Now as the UK looks set to depart the EU, the digital sector looks set to lose a major ally. The UK presidency of the Council of the EU – during which it would have been able to prioritise the agenda and drive forward digital policies coming to fruition – must be in severe doubt. In the EP, pressure is building for UK MEPs to vacate their roles. The risk is twofold – not only will the process of finding replacements put a brake on progress; the potential for pro-digital voices to be dampened down is a distinct possibility.