Technology sector issue letter demanding second vote on Brexit

Mel Kanarek at a roundtable event in Sheffield. Pic: Marisa Cashill
Mel Kanarek at a roundtable event in Sheffield. Pic: Marisa Cashill
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The technology industry has labelled the Brexit process “shambolic” and called for a new referendum on Britain’s future relationship with the European Union.

Over 1,000 technology business leaders from across the country have submitted a letter to Prime Minister, Theresa May, claiming her Withdrawal Agreement would not serve the best interests of the industry.

The letter, signed by the likes of Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, and Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of Lastminute.com, calls on MPs to eschew the PM’s deal in favour of a ‘People’s Vote’ with an option to remain in the EU.

Mel Kanarek, a founder of tech network Sheffield Digital, is one of the signatories of the letter.

She told The Yorkshire Post that the deal on the table is going to take away access to talent, markets and funding.

Ms Kanarek added: “I haven’t spoken to a single person, who runs or works in a digital business in and around Sheffield, who thinks it’s a good idea for us to leave the EU.

“The fact that the process has been so shambolic and the current agreement that is being put forward is so vague and just seems to put us in a worse position than we were before, I can’t see how anyone would want it to happen.”

Critics of another referendum have questioned whether those that wish to stay in the EU would accept another result in favour of Brexit.

Ms Kanarek said: “My personal opinion is if we have the opportunity to have another vote, if we are provided with clear, truthful and factual information about what the implications are, and the country still decides to leave, then I think we have to accept that.”

She also questioned how the initial referendum was run.

Ms Kanarek said: “We weren’t given clear information about what the choice would involve and more and more we’re hearing that we were flat out lied to, misled and there was illegal activity around that referendum.

“It surely cannot stand. We have to do this properly. The only way is to give the people the chance to vote.”

The letter was also signed by Stuart Clarke, director of Leeds Digital Festival, who says the central plank of May’s deal – ending freedom of movement – would have a major impact on Yorkshire’s tech sector.

He said the industry was facing a skills gap and that many companies rely on talent from Europe.

“There’s a lot of talent in Europe we could and should be tapping into,” he added.

Young industry needs young voice

Uncertainty around Brexit is already having a negative impact on tech companies, according to Mel Kanarek, with UK firms losing business.

She added: “This is a young industry and a lot of people who work in it are young. Think of all the people who have turned 18 in the past two years who have had no say whatsoever in this decision, which is going to have a massive impact on their future prosperity and on their future mobility.”

Jaron Ghani, from Leeds-based Numiko, Paul Connell, of ODI Leeds, and Alex Craven, from The Data City, also added their names to the letter.