Friday 12 July 2019 3:10 pm

British businesses split on Brexit 'brain drain' in tech industry

More than half of British businesses fear the threat of a potential tech brain drain after Brexit, according to a survey by tech giant Salesforce.

Almost 60 per cent of London firms believe they will lose access to digital talent once the UK leaves the EU, according to the software seller.

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Meanwhile, two-thirds plan to boost their spending on technology after Brexit to make up for any lack of tech-skilled workers.

“One of the most prominent issues for business is the growing skills gap,” Salesforce’s UK general manager, Paul Smith, told City A.M.

“It’s very important that the UK remains an open and welcoming hub for people across the world. It’s the uncertainty [that the UK will not] that is driving the fear of a tech brain drain.”

The UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy would require skilled foreign workers to earn £30,000 to win a UK visa in a bid to prioritise higher skills.

Salesforce’s survey of 1,000 British business leaders found that 64 per cent said investing in digital skills will become a higher priority post-Brexit, while 65 per cent said it will make technology spending more important.

Three in five respondents said tech investment could pick up the UK’s sluggish productivity rate.

“This is a message we’re hearing loud and clear,” Smith told City A.M. “In the context of Brexit, this means doing everything possible to secure, maintain, even grow the UK’s prosperity.”

He added that firms should bolster their technology investment regardless of Brexit’s potential impact on skilled workers.

“There are issues that business needs to lead on regardless of what’s happening in the world of politics,” Smith said. “The economy is changing as new technologies emerge.”

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Technology industry trade body Tech UK’s deputy chief executive, Antony Walker, added: “Two of the world’s greatest problem solvers are people and technology. Both are fundamental to creating a successful global Britain.

“Regardless of the impact of Brexit on the economy, technology leaders must continue their efforts to close the skills gap and work with governments and industry to tackle productivity.”