We are just days away from one of the biggest decisions Britain has faced in a generation. On Thursday people across the country will head to the polls to decide whether they want to remain a part of the EU, or leave the international partnership.
This decision will have an impact on communities and businesses around Britain, and the IT sector is no exception. With our members spanning the IT channel, CompTIA was keen to find out their thoughts on the referendum, to act as a litmus test of channel sentiment.
The majority of these respondents were SMEs, with between one and 99 employees, and currently work with the companies in the EU, so cannot be considered a comprehensive review of the sector's voting decisions. Nevertheless, the quick survey of more than 30 of our members unearthed some interesting insight into the channel's hopes and fears days before the votes are cast.
More than half of respondents said they are keen to remain a part of the EU, with 28 per cent stating they want to leave and 19 per cent undecided. When asked to explain their decision, one respondent commented that leaving the EU would allow Britain to "secure better trade deals with other important countries such as China, India and America", while a pro-remain member believed that leaving would mean European customers would be "less minded to give business to UK firms". Another worried it would be "hard for customers out[side] the UK to buy our products and services". "Uncertainty" about international trading and business relationships was the most quoted concern about leaving the EU.
Interestingly, despite this weighting towards wanting to remain in the EU, few channel companies are overly concerned about the potential economic ramifications of leaving. Over half (56 per cent) didn't think a Brexit would affect their profitability. There was also little concern that large organisations, such as US vendors, would shift their focus away from the UK: only 28 per cent thought that would be the case.
Sixty per cent believed that immigration from the EU had a positive or very positive impact on British business – 20 per cent more than thought same for immigration from outside the EU. Yet most respondents (59 per cent) didn't think that a vote to leave would affect their ability to fill skills shortages and most do not anticipate needing to change their employment strategy were we to leave the EU.
When asked whether they would consider moving their firms abroad if Britain voted to leave, two thirds said that they would not do so. But with just over 10 per cent saying they would and one respondent even saying they were already considering moving the company to Ireland if the decision is to leave, it's clear that, if this sentiment is shared across the industry, the sector could see a meaningful flight of IT skills and employers.
It's a variable picture overall. If this quick survey is anything to go by, most channel companies want to stay in the EU, but aren't significantly concerned about their ability to survive or succeed if we voted to leave. The vast majority have not yet taken any steps in preparation for the vote, but like the rest of us, wait with bated breath for the result. One way or another, on 24 June we will have a clear indication of where the country and the UK IT industry is heading.
Estelle Johannes is director, member communities, at CompTIA
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