Brexit’s impact on the technology and innovation sector: What do we know so far?

February 02, 2021

It was with some relief that business greeted the news that the EU and the UK had reached agreement on an EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) on 24 December 2020, which will now govern the future relationship between the EU and the UK following the end of the Brexit transition period.

Against a background of reported delays at some UK ports, to the more bizarre tale of hungry UK hauliers’ ham sandwiches having been confiscated by Dutch border officials [1], business leaders are still coming to terms with how the TCA affects their sector. Of particular interest is the likely impact of the TCA on the tech and innovation sector.

What does the TCA mean for those operating in the tech and innovation industry? Well, there are early signs of optimism among industry commentators. For example, Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE, has heralded the TCA as “a crucial opportunity to move from politics to partnership”[2]. Neil Ross, Head of Policy at Tech UK, would seem to be similarly sanguine, remarking that the deal “contains a number of positive aspects for the tech sector which go above and beyond comparable EU free trade agreements”[3].

When digging into the detail, it’s clear that the technology and innovation sector is not the subject of detailed, separate consideration (except in relation to telecoms) in the TCA. That said, it touches on a number of areas of law relevant to the sector, including in respect of data privacy, digital services, e-commerce, cyber security and consumer protection. Can we expect more for the sector in terms of any future deal on services? Time will tell. For the moment, tech businesses will need to get to grips with the TCA. For a detailed analysis of the TCA’s legal impact on them, see our Q&As, Impact of Brexit on technology and innovation.