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8 big changes the tech industry needs to know since Brexit set the government on fire

All you need to know about what the new-look government means for the tech industry, compiled by James Chater, Danson Intern at the New Statesman

Many working in tech, particularly in the US, would balk at any suggestion they need help from government (nobody mention the internet, the public sector’s greatest innovation!).

But the recent growth of London’s startup scene, and the fintech sector in particular, has no doubt been served well by its various cheerleaders in positions of power.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen in recent weeks, not least former PM David Cameron, who visited London’s Old Street roundabout five years ago to formally anoint the area we now begrudgingly call ‘Tech City’.

Government roles that touch on technology have been thrown up in the air by some of the major structural changes made since Theresa May’s appointment.

The changes follow a recent select committee report on the digital economy which concluded, “there needs to be better coordination between government departments on digital innovations”.

Here’s all you need to know about how the new structures will affect the technology industry. Let’s hope coordination is top of the list moving forwards.

What’s going down with the government departments?

So what’s new with the new departments?

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy combines many functions of the two dissolved ministries above. Some responsibilities will also be taken up by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The new department’s roles include: developing a comprehensive industrial strategy, developing reliable, affordable and clean energy sources, and maintaining the UK’s position as a leader in science, research and innovation.

As the name suggests, the Department for Exiting the European Union, AKA Brexit Dept, is responsible for the UK’s negotiations to leave the EU and establishing the future relationship moving forwards.

The Department for International Trade is now “responsible for promoting British trade across the world and ensuring the UK takes advantage of the huge opportunities open to us”.

Who are the key ministers in the new departments?

  • Liam Fox, who was once forced to resign from government for giving undue influence to an adviser, is the new Secretary of State for International Trade
  • David Davis is the Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union
  • Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is Greg Clark, former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
  • Minister of State for Universities and Science in the latter new department is Jo Johnson (he hung onto his post, which he started in May 2015)

Wait, where have the deposed ministers gone?

  • Sajid Javid, previously head of BIS, is now Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
  • Amber Rudd, previously head of Department for Energy & Climate Change, is now Home Secretary
  • John Whittingdale, previously head of Department for Culture, Media and Sport, has left government

What have the new department’s ministers got to do with tech?

  • David Davis leads on renegotiating our relationship with the EU, so his work will impact key things like hiring European staff, financial passporting rules, our future in the Digital Single Market, data protection regulations
  • As Liam Fox’s new department will look after UKTI post-Brexit, that means he oversees Tech City UK and Tech North, plus UK overseas trade
  • Jo Johnson has the most tech-specific brief at BEIS. His responsibilities include:

– Developing STEM skills
– The relationship with Government Office for Science on science in policy
– Innovate UK and innovation partners
– ‘Eight great technologies’ (infographics, big data, satellites, robotics, synthetic biology, regenerative medicine, agri-science, advanced materials)
– Smart cities
– Outer space programs

What happens to the relationship between BIS and the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS)?

Karen Bradley (no, not Brady) is the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, replacing John Whittingdale, and joins from working on prevention of abuse and exploitation.

In David Cameron’s government, the role of Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy – held by Ed Vaizey – worked under the auspices of the DCMS and the now-defunct BIS.

This role is now called Minister of State for Culture and Digital Policy – and will be held by Matthew Hancock – formerly looking after the Government Digital Service at the Cabinet Office. His responsibilities include digital markets and consumer policy, digital engagement and skills, digital strategy, enterprise and technology.

But the government website currently states this ministerial role is solely part of DCMS.

The internet safety and security role shared by DCMS and the Home Office survived the great jobs fire – as did the woman in charge of it – former chair of Tech City UK Baroness Shields.

That’s not all on cyber security…

  • New Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General is Ben Gummer
  • He is responsible for the digital transformation of government, including the Government Digital Service
  • Gummer also oversees the work of the Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance

… And the Treasury?

  • The new Economic Secretary to the Treasury (City Minister) is Simon Kirby
  • His responsibilities include banking and financial services reform, retail financial services, foreign exchange reserves and financial crime. That covers fintech too, lest we forget
  • He also has six children..!