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What the Queen’s Speech means for UK tech

Queen's speech tech

The Queen’s Speech, which outlines the legislation and policy goals of the government for the next year, has covered a wide range of topics from Brexit to energy to tech.

Delivered for the first time by Prince Charles due to the Queen facing ongoing mobility issues, the speech covered a mixture of bills and pledges that will guide the UK’s legislative programme for 2022 and beyond.

Yesterday’s speech also included a number of references that could hint at the future state of the UK tech industry. Here’s a rundown of the topics raised in the speech that could impact UK tech.

Data Protection

A revamp of data protection laws is one of the topics that many in tech expected to see at the Queen’s Speech this year.

“The United Kingdom’s data protection regime will be reformed,” Prince Charles said.

The UK currently operates under the Data Protection Act 2018, a law that remains in line with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). But critics of the legislation who see it as prohibitive for businesses want to see the UK diverge with its own data rules.

No specific details were given for what the reforms to data protection will look like, or when they will come into effect.

According to Jo Joyce, data protection expert at the law firm Taylor Wessing: “The government’s aim for data protection reform is to reduce the burden on businesses operating in the UK and to encourage more international tech companies to consider the UK as a natural base.”

Joyce, however, told UKTN that “while some elements of the GDPR regime may benefit from reform, an attempt at wholesale departure from the structure and principles of EU privacy law seems unlikely to succeed”.

Digital Markets Unit

Before the speech even took place, there was speculation – initially reported by The Financial Times – that legislation to increase the powers of UK tech competition regulators, previously expected in the speech, would be shelved.

However, while details were limited, Prince Charles did refer to “measures” that “will also be published to create new competition rules for digital markets and the largest digital firms”.

The draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill would provide the recently established Digital Markets Unit (DMU) with the authority to regulate Big Tech and prevent giant firms like Google and Meta from using market dominance to abuse smaller companies.

The DMU launched as part of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in 2021 but does not have statutory powers.

No mention of crypto

One major digital market that many in the industry hoped would receive a mention in the Queen’s Speech is cryptocurrency.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said last month that the government had plans to transform the UK into a “global cryptoassets hub”. Despite this, no mention of legislation or policy reform regarding crypto was made.

This is particularly concerning for cryptoassets trade firms, which have been facing regulatory limbo in Britain while the country’s financial regulators struggle to determine how best to deal with the industry.

Financial services company Etoro told UKTN how “disheartened” the company was “to hear no clear mention of crypto regulation”.

“In recent months key government officials have made welcome comments as to positioning the UK as a global hub for crypto, something eToro firmly supports,” Dan Moczulski, Managing Director at eToro told UKTN.

“However, this is in stark contrast to the experience of firms in this space when interacting with the FCA. There is a need to bridge this disconnect and provide precision on crypto’s place in the UK’s financial services landscape.”