Brexit: The Whole World is Watching! Including Tech

By Peter Bernstein June 20, 2016

It is hard to imagine a vote on something— even for those of us in the U.S. consumed and amazed by the daily barrage of presidential election year politics—that has garnered more attention than the vote in the U.K. on June 23rd on whether to stay or leave the European Union (EU).  In fact, not only is there all of the drama surrounding the advocates of the Yea or Nay positions, but as the vote approaches it is turning into a race that is too close to call. 

At a high level passions are running deep on both sides.  Those in favor of dumping the EU believe it would be a case of “good riddance to bad rubbish,” while those who wish to stay are painting a picture of ultimate economic disaster for not just Europe but globally.  Only time will tell which scenario will prevail depending on the outcome of the vote.  And, while we on this side of the pond who are paying attention have our rooting interests, the fact of the matter is that dire consequences in either direction may prove to be overblown.  However, this is not to minimize the impacts which are going to be felt.

The reason to bring this up is that not surprisingly researchers are out taking the temperature of every part of U.K. society.  This includes the technology sector which the good folks at Juniper Research surveyed, and it seems useful to see how our colleagues, who will have a direct say on this, are feeling as Election Day draws near. 

Without further ado, here is what Juniper found in its survey, Brexit – The Tech Industry Take, which asked the opinions of employees from both the U.K. and international technology companies.

Sixty-five percent of respondent believe Brexit will have a negative impact on the global tech industry. Most who believe Brexit would have a negative impact cited several reasons for their choice:

  • More than 7 in 10 U.K. respondents who think it would be bad for the sector believe it would be harder for U.K. tech firms to attract and employ individuals from EU countries.
  • Nearly two-thirds think that the industry would suffer as a result of reduced funding from the EU for the U.K. tech sector and that London would be less attractive as a tech hub.

Thirty-five percent of U.K. respondents believed that Brexit would either have little impact on the tech industry or else could even have a net positive effect:

  • Almost 90 percent of those who felt that the tech sector would be unaffected by Brexit cited the global nature of the tech industry and how it is largely unaffected by political or geographic boundaries.
  • 80 percent who believed Brexit to be positive for the tech sector cited less EU red tape as a benefit.

Immigration (pardon the expression) Trumps Economy as Key Issue

It should be noted there was a bit of a wow factor involved here.  The survey also found that immigration was regarded as the biggest issue in the referendum:  38 percent of respondents placing it at the top of their list, ahead of the economy (28 percent).  In addition, 66 percent of respondents who expressed a preference felt that the Leave campaign had outperformed Remain.

According to Dr. Windsor Holden, Head of Forecasting & Consultancy at Juniper Research, the nature and diversity of the reasons cited for the U.K. to remain in the EU presented difficulties to the Remain campaign.  “Vote Leave have focused effectively on the emotive issue of immigration,” he said. “The combination of financial and economic issues which concern those wary of Brexit cannot as easily be encapsulated and communicated and therefore present a real challenge to those seeking to engage with the public.”

In short, it seems to be coming down to a case of who has the best marketing.  Regardless of which side of the issue you may fall, that is a lesson for us all. We shall see what other lessons may come from what is likely to be a long night in the U.K. counting votes. 




Edited by Maurice Nagle
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