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What would Brexit mean for IT businesses?

Tamlin Magee | June 24, 2016
As the weeks roll towards the day of the EU referendum, we take a look at what a 'Brexit' could mean for business

With only 100 days left until the 23 June, when the UK will vote on whether to leave or stay in the European Union, there's not a consensus from the IT sector - but there are certainly concerns and considerations for an industry that's so inherently international.

Tech industry group TechUK's members are overwhelmingly in favour of staying - at 70 percent of those surveyed. Industry group for the capital's tech sector, Tech London Advocates, agrees, while the majority of the IT vendors we've asked are declining to comment.

And an exit from the EU has the potential to cause headaches for the CIOs and IT teams of just about any business operating in the UK, and for tech firms themselves.

Brexit for business: Skills gap left unplugged

As our sister title writes, CIOs are feeling some trepidation about a possible Brexit - with worries that a vote to leave could significantly disrupt operations, particularly in hiring.

British organisations that employ EU staff in their IT teams include, to name just a few: British Gas, Jaguar Land Rover, infrastructure projects HS2 and Crossrail, the Royal Mail, Save the Children, Thomson Reuters, Eurostar, Gatwick Airport, De Beers, Paul Smith, BT, JCB, Virgin Airways, Starbucks, Channel 4 and The National Trust.

And with all the talk of a UK-wide skills gap, does it make any sense at all to close the borders and clamp down on the freedom of movement for workers?

The CMO of data analytics company Relative Insight, Rich Wilson, says businesses would have to be "bonkers" to want a Brexit. 

Finding staff is tough enough, Wilson says, as businesses have to compete with all the startups going, along with the hiring might of Britain's finance sector.

"I know quite a few startups that are increasingly concerned about the impact Brexit would have on their existing team, including their founders," Wilson adds. "These are firms with people from around Europe who would have to leave the country in the event of the UK exiting Europe."

"In the worst case scenario we could see entire firms leaving."

Quocirca's chief analyst Clive Longbottom believes that anti-immigration noise from government has already perturbed some businesses.

Depending on the terms of negotiation following a Brexit, there could be further complications with hiring people across Europe who have specific, desired IT skills.

And besides, what will happen to the workers who are already here?

Longbottom says: "Visas may be required, more checks as to capability to work in the UK, does the person meet the points number set by the government to migrate here, and what happens to the person's family?

"If you outsource, then the outsourcing companies will either have to jump through all those hoops as well, and so up their costs to you, or do remote outsourcing where the skills stay in-country and operate from there.


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