Digital Global Britain – challenges & opportunities

By | April 20, 2017

Released yesterday, TechUK’s paper on the impacts of Leaving the Customs Union is driven by concerns to avoid future entanglement in ‘Red Tape’.

That well-worn trade body theme (and parade of potential problems) is understandable but what stands out from the paper are some positive and forward-looking recommendations, including:

  • A call for government to  ‘increase its participation in key forums for the pursuit of positive international trade alliances on digital issues, such as G20 discussions on digital trade and the WTO ITA 20th anniversary summit’.   This reflects what many have regarded as a much neglected arena stretching back several Departmental generations to the days of the DTI.  UK enterprise champions (particularly in high-tech) have often battled alone in Standards fora where global giants can easily afford to fly in extra votes.
  • TechUK also ‘encourages the Government to undertake an immediate review to investigate how new digital technologies such as blockchain and machine learning can play a role in delivering a world-leading data-driven frictionless customs system.‘  Now there’s a thought. Why swap different shades of Red Tape when, with imagination and application effort the problem can be turned into a global digital opportunity.  That’s an idea worthy of EU-funding !

TechUK’s recommendations for the most-part assume a need for greater government action.  That assumption is entirely (and sadly) in sync with conventional sector-led thinking as, for example, reflected in the recent BEIS Green Paper on Industrial Strategy.  It does, however, overlook the very real possibilities that the new drivers in international trade are enlightened Local Authorities driven by their city/community needs to develop economic growth, inward investment and jobs.  It’ll not be long now before we have a new set of metro-mayors looking to champion such causes.  High-tech enterprise investors might be advised to not expect much of top-down central policy but engage more fully with inspired local leaders who can cut through the red tape?