Frost admits Britain needs 'benefits of Brexit to start paying off’
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Since 2016, officials and ministers have hammered home the idea that a “pro-growth and innovation-friendly” would put Britain ahead of Europe. Brexit gave Britain the chance to form a new policy landscape, giving the UK the opportunity to address some of the key legislative challenges in the technology sector. These include issues like data privacy and digital competition, which if addressed in the right way, could help to highlight the advantages of an independent Britain.
But officials have warned that Downing Street is struggling to successfully apply new rules to lure in innovative digital companies.
There are three main areas that industry and officials have warned the UK is at risk of letting slip away.
These include new rules to facilitate boosted investment in the tech sector from pension funds, Britain’s new digital competition programme and how it regulates data.
Critics have argued the Government needs to be far more ambitious if it is to reap the potential benefits in these three areas.
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, who was commissioned by Boris Johnson to help the UK to make changes to its regulatory regime after Brexit, said: “This has got to be done at a gallop rather than a walk.
“It’s too slow and it’s too unadventurous and it’s not bold enough.”
Now, there are fears from officials and lobbyists in this area that their files will be missed out in the next phase of the Government’s legislative programme which is due to be announced on May 10 in a parliamentary session known as the Queen’s speech.
But a Government spokesman has downplayed those fears as “purely speculation”.
They said: “We will set out our legislative program for the year in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech as is usual.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has had a key role to play in helping to boost the UK’s technological innovation, industry leaders and officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have said.
Executive director of the Coalition for a Digital Economy, Dom Hallas, said: “Rishi obviously has a strong understanding of how tech ecosystems work and that’s made a huge difference over the past several years.”
But there are fears 10 Downing Street may not warm to plans for a new digital competition regime.
According to two officials familiar with discussions, digital and business departments have been locked in an ongoing back and forth about a new bill that is poised to go through parliament.
It involves introducing legally-binding codes of conduct to “prevent abuses of power – unleashing a wave of innovation”, to allow “a more flexible and targeted approach than the one being taken by the EU”.
But officials fear that even if changes were to be announced next month, we could be waiting until 2023 before MPs actually legislate it.
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While it may be dragging at a slow pace to make legislative change, the UK has been taking steps in other areas to bring a boost to its tech sector after Brexit.
Back in December 2021, Britain signed a major deal with Australia that is expected to unlock £10.4billion of additional trade for the economy, including in digital and technology sectors.
TheCityUK Managing Director, International Trade and Investment, Nicola Watkinson, said: “The agreement rightly focuses on issues important to the services sectors representing 80 percent of the UK economy, such as recognition of professional qualifications, data and digital provisions, which all create new opportunities for UK exporters.
“As the UK’s largest exporter of services, the financial and related professional services industry welcomes this agreement.”
And in 2021, the UK tech sector had its best ever year, reaching £29.4billion, up 2.3 times more than the year before at £11.5billion.
This boost to the tech sector was the highest seen since 2013/2014, when it grew from £1.5 billion to £3.5 billion.
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