It was three years go, three whole years, when the people of the UK voted in the European Union (EU) referendum. A narrow majority 51.9% (17,40,742) voted to leave with 48.1% (16,141,241) who voted to remain. No actual plan for leaving the EU was ever clear, and that remains the case in June 2019. The Conservative party have been in charge of the country before, during and after this vote took place, and they are now about to appoint their third leader to have a go at making the decision reality. At the time of writing, the overwhelming favourite to become the next leader, and therefore Prime Minister of the UK, is Boris Johnson, the ex Foreign Secretary. If Mr Johnson does not get the majority of votes cast by around 160,000 Conservative party members, then it will be the current Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt who will take the reins and be charged with delivering the UK’s exit from the European Union.
Mr Johnson has intimated, claimed, promised and generally waved his arms around that the UK will leave the European Union with or without an agreed Withdrawal Agreement on the 31st of October when asked direct questions on the matter. One could be cynical and say this is simply the poetry of campaigning potentially being replaced by the prose of governing, and that Parliament would not countenance this actually happening anyway. But as the law of the land stands right now, if nothing else happens and there are no new successful negotiations, the UK will leave the EU in just over 5 months time ‘without a deal’ and the consequences for UK businesses, including UK videogames businesses will be both serious and long lasting.
Any talk of the UK and EU moving to a World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement under the GATT 24 ‘clause’ after 31st October 2019, is fanciful. Although this approach is popular amongst many people desperate to leave the EU it requires an actual deal/agreement to be in play between the parties and both of those parties actually wanting to enter into that WTO arrangement. Leaving the EU without any Withdrawal Agreement (aka a ‘deal’) will mean that all of our legal agreements with the EU will be shredded and invalidated overnight. At Games4EU we have invested a serious amount of time researching and stating why a no deal Brexit would be a disaster for the UK games industry https://www.games4eu.com/updated-brexit-guide not least with tariffs making boxed games coming in from the EU where they are all currently manufactured more expensive, data no longer being moved freely with the EU27 and VAT agreements no longer existing. On that basis alone, we have to take the potential of Mr Johnson as the next Prime Minister, very, very seriously indeed.
The immediate alternative to Mr Johnson becoming Prime Minister is Mr Hunt winning the job. Hunt has said all along, whilst he is committed to the UK leaving the EU on the 31st of October, he is not wedded to that date if it means leaving without a Withdrawal Agreement. So on that basis alone, the UK videogames industry should really hope that Mr Hunt wins the majority of Conservative party members’ votes. Mr Hunt has made plenty of reference to helping businesses especially technology start ups and scale ups and as an ex Secretary of State for digital, culture, media and sport, which videogames comes under and he is well aware of the potential and importance of the UK videogames industry within the wider Creative Industries sector, which is the fastest growing industrial sector in the UK and has been since the financial crisis of 2010.
What can any of us do to influence the debate and the vote for our next Prime Minister? Well Conservative party members who care about the UK videogames industry should vote for Mr Hunt. For the rest of us we should seek to influence Conservative party members we know and who our friends know, to vote for Mr Hunt. With Mr Johnson as our UK Prime Minister, the UK videogames industry faces its biggest threat since Canada introduced the generous tax breaks many years ago and saw Uk talent and foreign overseas inward investment flowing out of the UK and into Canada. This time around, with our industry fully digital, global and mobile, the ease of relocation out of the UK is so much easier and quicker for individuals and companies and therefor the UK industry will face an existential threat like never before.