EU referendum: Tech leaders warn against Brexit as new figures show one in five directors at new UK tech companies are foreign nationals

Lauren Fedor
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The Silicon Roundabout In Old Street
People working at TechHub London, a startup space near Old Street (Source: Getty)

London tech leaders are warning against Britain leaving the European Union as new figures show that more than one in five directors at new UK tech companies are foreign nationals, with most coming from EU countries.

The number of foreign directors of new UK tech companies has increased by 133 per cent since 2010, while the number of tech directors from EU countries has increased 176 per cent over the same period, according to DueDil, a data intelligence company.

Guy Levin, executive director for Coadec, and Russ Shaw, who founded Tech London Advocates, said the figures showed that a so-called Brexit would make the UK less appealing to entrepreneurs from overseas.

"The UK's digital economy is thriving, with London the best place in Europe to launch a digital startup," said Levin. "Brexit would put this at risk, threatening the ability of British tech companies to scale and trade across a single market of over 500m consumers, and hire from a talented pool of workers."

"London has been hugely successful as a hub for new tech start-ups, not least because it is the best place in Europe for companies to scale," Shaw said. "However, there is still a shortage of tech talent in the UK, and companies frequently have to scour Europe to get the specific expertise they need to fill key roles. Withdrawing from the EU would greatly complicate that process, resulting in entrepreneurs looking at alternative homes for their new businesses."

The new figures come less than one week after the government came under criticism for confirming it would be introducing a £1,000 annual levy on firms for each non-EU worker they employ.

Read more: Business groups slam proposed £1,000 employer tax

Confederation of British Industry (CBI) director for employment and skills Neil Carberry said the charge would "only hold [businesses] back from accessing the talent they need to grow".

Marcus Mason of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said the new charge was "bad news for business" and would "damage the UK's reputation as a global business hub".

"Businesses are reporting severe recruitment difficulties, especially for highly-skilled and specialised positions, and it makes no sense to slap new charges on firms that need to recruit from overseas – often because they are left with little alternative due to skills gaps here at home," Mason added.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) first proposed the new so-called immigration skills charge earlier this year.