What’s next for tech companies in the Brexit debate

Crowdpac’s Steve Hilton, a passionate advocate of Brexit, has few points of agreement with Daniel Korski, a former advisor to David Cameron and an organizer of the Remain campaign. But the two could agree on at least one thing — the U.K. is headed for a so-called hard Brexit that will have negative ramifications for the technology and business sectors.

“My sense is that they are definitely not embracing the dynamic pro-enterprise agenda,” Hilton said of the current government.

And although Korski agreed that the U.K. will likely close itself off from important trade deals and not access the global economy, he and Hilton differed drastically about the motivations that drove Brexit voters to leave. Hilton cited economic factors, saying that the tech industry is in part responsible for disrupting traditional employment and leaving many people behind. Korski argued that undertones of racism and elitism coursed through the Leave campaign.

“There are people who are deeply uncomfortable with the progress of change,” Korski said. “The Leave side unleashed some terrible demons in our society.”

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Hilton and Korski agreed that the best path forward would be an open Brexit, but Prime Minister Theresa May’s administration does not seem to be headed in that direction.

Hilton said he and other Brexit supporters advanced a vision of an open Brexit. “Leaving the EU enables the U.K. to be more engaged with the global economy, not just the European economy. That dynamic, outlooking Brexit is what we are looking for,” HIlton explained. However, he cautioned that May is “going down a darker path.”

“I’ve described it as a closed Brexit, which I think is really damaging and dangerous and should be avoided at all costs,” Hilton added.


Korski agreed. “I think, going forward, I like the concept of an open Brexit. I say a smart Brexit,” he said, adding that the tech community will need to step up and define its needs to the government. He said the reactions to Brexit have varied from Pollyannaish to sky-is-falling, and the community needs to land somewhere in between. “The tech community needs to create parameters for the government to operate within,” he said. “A middle position: knowing what’s good for it — talent, access to market, access to capital — but also knowing what it can provide.”

Watch the full debate below.