The Supreme Court has today given its ruling on Article 50, sparking a reaction from members of the UK’s technology sector.
The ruling rejected an appeal by ministers against a High Court judgement blocking their decision to begin Britain’s exit from the European Union without Parliament having a say in the matter.
Today’s landmark decision, which outlined that neither Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland would need to be consulted on triggering Article 50, ruled that Parliament’s approval will be necessary before official Brexit talks can begin.
Oleg Giberstein, founder of peer-to-peer career mentoring platform Guidelighter, said he was not surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision as “it only upheld the law by protecting parliamentary sovereignty”.
The real question for the UK tech community, he added, will be to see how far any amendments to Theresa May’s ‘Hard Brexit’ strategy can go.
“The crackdown on immigration will hurt all of us here. The industry’s open, international culture and access to talent will inevitably suffer so any parliamentary-forced amendment to Hard Brexit, however small, would be a win,” added Giberstein.
On a more personal level, Giberstein said he hoped EU nationals currently living in and working in the UK – of whom many are his friends and colleagues – would stop being a bargaining chip in the government’s Brexit negotiations.
“I am not overtly optimistic though that today’s decision will change much given the hawkishness of PM May,” concluded the co-founder.
Transparency and clarity
Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates, said today’s decision would ultimately be welcomed by the technology community as it provided more transparency and detail on the government’s planned Brexit strategy.
Despite this, Shaw said fast growth tech businesses could not afford to “wait around whilst the government ties itself in knots”.
“There are serious challenges in British tech,” he added, noting that a need for more digital skills alongside international investment and the need to keep the doors open for world-class talent remained a top priority for the sector.
“The government desperately needs to provide clear plans and solutions to assuage market uncertainty.
“This is a problem created by politicians but working people and successful businesses will be the ones to suffer from endless negotiations,” Shaw highlighted.
Importance of digital
Today’s ruling comes as industry trade association techUK released a report outlining how the country’s digitally intensive industries could form the bedrock for success following Brexit.
New research shows that at 16% of gross value added (GVA), 24% of the UK’s total exports and three million jobs, companies that either produce or intensively use digital tech constitute a substantial and growing part of the UK economy.
Jacqueline de Rojas, president of techUK, commented on the findings: “There is no sector more dynamic, more innovative, more resilient than tech, but that doesn’t make it immune to Brexit. As this report makes clear, there are real risks that need to be understood and addressed. The UK’s thriving tech sector can come through this process and go on to power the vision of Global Britain.”
The UK’s digitally intensive businesses, she added, are big exporters to Europe and the rest of the globe.
“They represent the best of what Global Britain can be: open, fast-moving, innovative and internationally successful. It is essential that their importance and needs are recognised,” concluded de Rojas.
Effect on sterling
The Supreme Court’s ruling had widespread repercussions outside of the tech community.
Sterling rose slightly as the ruling was being announced by Lord Neuberger, before falling to 1.2474 pounds against the dollar. This, however, is not the first time the pound has fallen in value in recent times.
In October last year, the price of sterling fell by 6% against the US dollar in just two minutes when the currency markets began trading in Asia; plummeting to $1.1841 – the lowest point since May 1985.
Many commentators at the time attributed the currency’s fall in value to Prime Minister Theresa May outlining the timetable for Brexit.