Brexit and its effect on the UK’s tech/media industries

Last week came the most shocking news from the United Kingdom in quite awhile: a referendum on whether or not to leave the European Union narrowly passed, with 52% of voters voting “Leave” to 48% voting “Remain.” There’s been a ton of coverage of “Brexit” (“British Exit”) since then, with (despite the slim majority win) a strongly negative response…for good reason.

The main reasons I could find in favor of the UK leaving the EU are a mix of: xenophobic/anti-immigrant views (“take our country back” indeed); nostalgia for some perceived pre-EU “glory days” (presumably by older people, as younger voters vastly favored “Remain”); a desire for more self-control/disagreement by conservatives with EU policies; and as an ill-conceived means of saving money.

So far, the last one definitely hasn’t happened. Since Friday, global stock markets have been rocked by Brexit; the value of the British pound has fallen to 30-year lows. There’s also a massive political mess to be dealt with, including the impending resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron.

I’ll look below at how this will affect various technology and media industries.

Media

Variety has published a list of problems that the British media industry will face with the UK exiting the European Union. Among the downsides:

  • British films and TV shows becoming less appealing to European markets per EU production quotas; UK productions would be treated like imported media from other non-EU countries like the US.
  • A weak British pound makes acquiring non-UK movies and TV shows more expensive for UK media outlets. However, I imagine it’ll be cheaper for media companies here stateside to acquire British productions. Good news for Netflix’s carrying of various British cartoons such as the revival of “Danger Mouse.
  • Various other obstacles for British film and TV producers: passports needed for shooting in Europe, a weak pound, etc.

The only plus side Variety found is possibly spurring the UK to encourage outside film/TV show productions to shoot programming in the United Kingdom. Presumably it’d be similar to how Canada attracts budget-minded American movie and TV show producers.

Tech

The tech industry’s also up in arms over Brexit. For years, London’s become an attractive spot for tech companies, between London’s global prominence, its EU ties, and so forth. The whole EU departure, however, throws a lot of doubt on London’s tech future. As ZDNet summed up some of the tech industries’ problems:

  • Limits on the number of EU workers who can work in the United Kingdom.
  • Investment (and jobs) heading off to tech hubs Paris and Berlin instead of London.
  • A depressed economy from a weak pound hurting homegrown businesses (how much they can spend on employees, etc.).

And so on. While I suppose it’s possible for foreign businesses to find a cheaper pound attractive, the now-significantly-increased paperwork for European businesses to invest in the UK might be off-putting. There’s also that the “Leave” vote was based heavily on anti-immigration reasons, which might result in hesitance by European tech workers to work in London for years to come. But then again, I guess that’s what the “Leave” voters wanted, economic disaster be darned.

Conclusion

The only plus side for all of this I can see isn’t for the UK, but for their next door neighbor: Ireland. Ireland is a business-friendly English-speaking country that’s an EU member; thus, I can see its appeal now increasing thanks to their neighbor’s newfound turmoil. Some tech companies such as Google and Facebook already have operations in Ireland. CNBC seems to agree about Ireland now looking better. The cable network notes the main downsides of Ireland are the appeal of relocating to major EU hubs Berlin/Paris and that Dublin isn’t as glamorous a city as London.

Overall, should Brexit fully go through (there’s still a small chance of it not, though that seems slim), there’ll be plenty of turmoil for the United Kingdom in the future. At a minimum, the country seems headed for painful times economically; its media and tech industries face a lot of newfound problems in the near future. It’s all a pretty steep and painful price for a country to pay. And all just because a slim majority of said country’s voters are foolish enough to tear their country’s economic and political stability into shreds, particularly just to keep immigrants out.

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