The UK and the European Union (EU) are on the cusp of concluding a 2,000-page free trade agreement, after some last-minute haggling about fish.
The deal comes four and a half years after the UK’s referendum on membership of the EU, and just seven days before the end of the transition period that marks the country’s final self-expulsion from the Union.
The UK’s technology community has been less than enthusiastic about Brexit. On the day after the referendum, on 24 June 2016, Computer Weekly reported the UK IT community to be “rocked but keeping calm in the face of Brexit”.
At that time, Julian David, CEO of IT industry trade body TechUK, said: “Today the British public has decided that the UK should leave the European Union. This is not the outcome that the majority of TechUK members were hoping for. It opens up many uncertainties about the future.
“However, the UK tech sector will play its part in helping the UK to prepare, adapt and thrive in a future outside the European Union.”
In a statement issued to Computer Weekly as we now await the announcement of the deal, a spokesperson for TechUK said: “The signs look good for the conclusion of a deal today. Speculation in the press points towards some good outcomes for the tech sector on digital trade and data adequacy.
“In particular, if it is correct that transition arrangements leading to a data adequacy agreement are included, then this is a good outcome and something we have campaigned for since the referendum.
“However, we are still waiting on a significant amount of detail that will need to be analysed, and it is vital that we get this as soon as possible so that businesses can begin preparing for the end of the transition period in just seven days’ time.”
Meanwhile, Labour shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said on Twitter: “Indications that a deal is imminent mean many businesses are breathing a sigh of relief. Yet early indications suggest this thin deal will have a major negative impact on GDP. With key industries subject to substantial barriers, these are not the promised ‘exact same benefits’.”
Guy Faulconbridge, political correspondent for Reuters in Westminster, paraphrased a JP Morgan report about the deal, saying: “The EU has secured a deal which allows it to retain nearly all of its advantages from trade with the UK, but with the ability to use regulations to ‘cherry pick’ among sectors where the UK has had advantages – such as services.”
Faulconbridge added: “If there is an agreement, it will ultimately be a narrow free trade deal surrounded by other pacts on fisheries, transport, energy and cooperation in justice and policing.
“It will not cover the financial services that make London the only financial capital to rival New York. Services make up 80% of the British economy.”