The UK’s Brexit secretary David Davis is to call for a “deal like no other in history” as official Brexit talks begin in Brussels today.
Unsurprisingly, the negotiations have drawn the attention of many of the country’s technology entrepreneurs – the majority of whom have shared their concerns about not being able to access international talent and the single European market once the UK leaves the European Union (EU).
Ian Naylor, CEO and founder of AppInstitute, spoke about the uncertainty and how this would negatively impact the financial markets.
“The instability and fluctuation in the strength of the pound makes it challenging for SMEs to budget and forecast with accuracy.
“We have a significant amount of suppliers in the US due to the SaaS nature of our business, and our purchases in USD have since become more costly than forecast a year ago.”
This uncertainty is likely to continue until an official agreement is reached and the UK officially departs the EU at the end of March 2019. Davis echoed this and said there was a “long road ahead”, but predicted a “deep and special partnership”.
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His comments also come after the Duke of York, told the BBC last week that UK businesses should make the most of new international opportunities post-Brexit. Despite acknowledging that entrepreneurs were facing several years of uncertainty and upheaval, the Duke urged businesses to engage with as many different markets as possible and encouraged them to “look at the best things rather than necessarily the worst of things”.
Monica Unjia, business development at HedgeGuard, a FinTech software firm, spoke to Tech City News and said she couldn’t agree more with taking the glass half full approach.
“As with anything in business, the circumstances, players or environment are never ideal but an entrepreneur assesses their stance and goals to manage the risks to move forward. It is the difficult markets that result in opportunities of major wins by playing against resistance.
“In context of Brexit, we can only continue on and look for growth as this will result in strong UK businesses with the advantage of being resilient to uncertainty.”
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Sarah Kerruish, chief patient officer at HealthTech firm Antidote, agreed in that technology entrepreneurs were inherently programmed to make the best of any situation. “It’s just a lot harder when you’ve been ‘shot’ in both feet,” she added.
But it hasn’t all been bad. Martin Hao, managing director of Healthera, a smart medicine diary for patients, said there were positives to be drawn from Brexit and the pound’s devaluation.
“As a Cambridge-based HealthTech company founded by non-EU entrepreneurs straight after university, we’ve experienced the after effect of the decision of Brexit: a more favourable cohort of American and Chinese tech investors due to cheaper sterling, and a more open global market for exploitation.
Stuart Mackintosh, CEO and founder of business management software firm OpusVL, was largely optimistic about what the future held for UK businesses.
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“Although we don’t yet know what the detail of Brexit may be, change always creates opportunity. Every modern business needs to be a tech business to maintain competitive advantage by implementing automation and self-service.
“Brexit brings the opportunity for UK firms to skill up and provide modern high demand services like digital security, open source, communications and data protection to the global marketplace. These services are easy to export, and the UK has a strong background and skill-set in these areas.
Claire Cockerton, head of Plexal, a new innovation space in London, also aired her concerns last week, highlighting how a hard Brexit could starve the UK tech industry of European talent, which currently constitutes 40% of the workforce.
But while continued access to international talent will continue to worry many in the UK tech industry, entrepreneurs are also calling out for the government to tackle a wider range of issues, including increased tax incentives, investment in UK talent, commitment to environmental regulations and security for EU nationals already in the UK.
It’s expected that today’s negotiations will focus on procedural issues, as both teams map out the desired frequency of meetings going forward and lay the groundwork for what shape the discussions will take. A joint press conference featuring Davis and Michel Barnier, is scheduled for this evening.