The ‘hokey kokey’ of the Referendum debate

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With June 23rd closing in upon us, political ping pong seems to be the order of the day.  With so many mixed messages in the market, it is difficult to see the wood from the trees.

As we are all aware this is obviously a personal decision, but I believe one that should be based upon facts not political point scoring around the pros and cons of a Brexit decision.

We are given some estimates suggesting the total economic cost of EU membership is around 11% of our annual GDP at around £200 billion.  Some say this money would be better spent on new British industries.  It is also stated that the EU is one of the world’s largest markets, accounting for 25% of global GDP.

The interesting point is that it is said that the EU is our biggest trading partner, with 45% of the UK’s exports to the EU, and 50% of all imports are from the EU.  You could argue that our membership makes us a more attractive destination for foreign investment.  Figures from 2012 show we received around £937 billion of Foreign Direct Investment, while 50%  of UK FDI is EU-related.

It is thought by ‘Brexiters’, we can independently pursue international trade deals with China, India and the US, this may well be true, but there is nothing stopping us today, or is there?

It is said that the EU has many layers of bureaucracy and regulatory issues.

I see that Nigel Farage believes we could strike an agreement with the EU that is similar to Norway’s, having access to the EU but not being bound by it.

And not to mention the most charged debate around the immigration effect on the country.

When I questioned my professional colleagues, it is very clear to me that they all have differing opinions, some to stay in and some to exit, both parties putting up convincing arguments and as far as I can see neither is wrong and there is value in both.

One thing that is understood is that we are all aware of where the EU has taken us as a country since 1972, but what will exiting deliver and where would this untrodden ground take us?    In reality, nobody knows.

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I therefore question what the real issues are and whether we are being given all the correct facts, plus what are the motives? Will we ever understand what it will mean to us before we are asked to vote in 27 days time, or will we all be simply voting upon minimal information based on a favoured approach by our local MP’s – and on the basis of a set of reforms negotiated by Prime Minister David Cameron, be they weak or strong?

As an IT Managed Services Provider we could sit on the fence, however for a few of our customers, it could have major repercussions if we left the EU.

What do you think?  How might it affect your business?

The UK Referendum – Macro and Micro events impacting on your IT environment

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The Macro Picture
On 23rd June 2016, all British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK will be able to exercise their democratic right to vote for the UK to remain a member of the European Union, or leave the EU.

As you would expect in a modern democracy, all eligible citizens will be free to vote as heart or mind dictates and it’s no surprise that such an economically seismic event of this nature is leading to much debate and consideration by politicians, pundits, colleagues and friends alike.

However you vote on the day, this event can rightly be classed as a genuine macro event which happens not every 5 years, but potentially once a generation and both outcomes from the vote have the potential to profoundly impact the UK business environment.

As an organisation that provides integral support to businesses both within the UK and across the world, we have been keeping a keen eye on the implications for staying in or exiting and we know a number of our customers have been doing the same. We are aware that customers across industries have been undertaking discrete assessments of their business footprint, trading parameters and their IT infrastructure in order that policies and processes are developed to accommodate both outcomes. Amicus ITS’ regulatory and compliance teams have been very active with a number of customers to ensure the implications of data management and the storage of data offshore from the UK are clearly known and managed.

At Amicus ITS, our position on the need to assess, review and prepare your IT and data management infrastructure to ensure it is ready for any outcome is clear – TAKE ACTION, however discretely, to provide reassurance to the stakeholders in your business that you can manage and thrive in the unknown environment to come. Depending upon your perspective, macro events can be dealt with as minor bumps in the road or full on roadblocks. Your position on this should be determined by action and not inaction.

The Micro Picture
So what about micro events? These exist all around us and are multiple within the commercial environment that all companies operate. This is the same whether this is within the UK, EU or across the globe and within Amicus ITS we see the impact of these every day. Invariably, our everyday policies, procedures and good common sense ensure that micro events are managed and dealt with in a clean and efficient manner. However, at such a critical time as a major referendum, macro and micro events are inexorably drawn towards each other and this is something we are already starting to see within the IT managed services support environment.

As 23rd June approaches, we are starting to see a rise in the number of micro cyber security related incidents within our customer base, ranging from CryptoLocker attacks, to targeted DDoS attacks. More worryingly, we are seeing refined and highly complex preparation and targeting of brands and institutions for whom the macro outcome of the election could be doubly impacted by a breach of their security thresholds. A complex and high profile breach of cyber defences at the time of our Referendum could damage both commercial performance and reputation to companies and brands who may need to support a new direction within their chosen business space.

The simple truth is that macro or micro events happen all the time. By focusing on the right sort of preparation and planning to ensure IT infrastructure and security is kept at the front of your mind, alongside doing what you do best, will means that you can successfully adapt to any outcome and take some time to embrace the outcome – whichever way things go.

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The 53rd State of IT

epa05133258 A Union Jack flag flutters next to European Union flags ahead a visits of the British Prime Minister David Cameron at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, 29 January 2016. Cameron arived in Brussels for unscheduled talks on a Brexit referendum. EPA/LAURENT DUBRULE

Research has suggested that British technology companies are significantly in favour of remaining within the EU, but Matt Warman, Conservative MP for Boston and Skegness, told a debate about the UK’s digital future that if the sector was so passionate about that position, it should speak up and hope to influence public opinion.

“The tech community is very, very strong in the opinion [that technology] is global,” said Warman, who is also in favour of staying in the EU and is former consumer technology editor of The Telegraph and chair of the all-party parliamentary group For Broadband and Digital Connectivity.

“If you guys believe this stuff, get out there and say it. It’s a hard task for politicians because we are often not the most trusted people in the room.”

Tech and politics
He noted that US-based technology figures, such as Apple CEO Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg, hold strong political views as well, particularly with regards to the Republican party frontrunner Donald Trump’s hopes of becoming the next president of the USA.

Indeed, Box CEO Aaron Levie opened his keynote speech at an event in London last week to “apologise” for Trump’s views, which have proved divisive both at home and abroad. However Warman accepted that technology firms had to balance their political beliefs with commercial sensitivities.

“Businesses need to find a way to get it out there. They need to … publically say it rather than hope [the Referendum] goes one way.”

Industry support for EU
Research from industry body techUK suggest that 70% of its members want to stay in the EU, 15% want to leave and 15% don’t know. The majority support the UK’s membership because it makes the country more attractive to international investment, makes the UK more globally competitive and gives it a more favourable trading relationship with other members.

“There is a strong message from the tech industry that Europe is good for business. Tech leaders are clear that the UK needs to be holding the pen on the laws that affect their businesses,” said Julian David, techUK CEO.

“A vote to remain is a vote to ensure the UK voice is at the heart of policies that support the UK’s most innovative sector to continue to grow and create jobs. A vote leave would mean that the UK tech industry would lose its voice on the issues that matter most.”

Tech London Advocates surveyed its members and found that 87% of its members oppose Brexit (the Leave campaign), because they believe that membership of the EU boosts the UK economy by making it more attractive to international businesses looking to operate in Britain.

It seems that just 3% of respondents favoured the UK leaving the EU. The remaining 10% reportedly declined to express their opinion on the matter.

It is clear there is concern within the tech industry about the impact of losing access to the European market. The survey found that nearly three in four (71%) feel Brexit would make it harder to reach customers in EU countries, and threaten existing relationships with suppliers based in Europe.

And more than four out of five (81%) believe that Brexit would make it harder to employ people from EU countries.

“London has established a global reputation as the digital capital of Europe,” Russ Shaw, the founder of Tech London Advocates said. “There is significant concern within the digital community that Brexit would undermine this position and threaten relationships with the European market.

“Attracting international companies to the capital has been one of the great success stories of London’s digital economy,” said Shaw. “Brexit could see global businesses locating in emerging digital hubs in Berlin, Paris and Stockholm rather than London.”

Besides the above reasons, it seems that the London tech sector is not keen on the uncertainty that could be generated by a British exit.

“There are things I don’t agree with in the EU, but no can tell us what the alternative will be like,” said Michael Seres, founder, 11Health. “I have an investment round coming up and looking to hire 14 new people in the next 2 years, I can’t make those decisions if my access to markets and the regulation in this and those markets is unknown.”

Business Risk

“The business risk of leaving the EU is on balance too high,” said Nick Thomson, Chief Revenue Officer at Workshare. “The business risk of leaving the EU is on balance too high. Not just for us but for all businesses engaged in the sharing of data securely.”

And Thomson pointed out Europe’s role in tackling America over recent data protection concerns.

“As a large trading block the EU was able to secure the EU Data Protection Regulation against US pressure,” said Thomson. “The UK may well have to compromise this level of data to protection in the negotiation for its new trade concession from the US. Leading not only to less data security for people and businesses based in the UK, but also making it vastly more complicated to share data with the he rest of Europe – our main trading partners.”

There is a real possibility that the UK could vote to leave, as recent polls have suggested that almost seven in 10 pensioners want to leave the EU, while young people were more likely to be pro-European, but are less likely to cast a vote.

Thoughts

It is clear that the UK Referendum will have a potentially significant impact on IT and Data which is quickly becoming, and always should have been, the “crown jewels” of every company.    If you consider what transpired with Safe Harbour and with the European General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) on the horizon, would the UK be in such a strong bargaining position outside the EU – or would we be caught in-between the US and the EU?

Added to this, the European GDPR will come into effect before the UK can legally depart the EU, so data controllers and data processors need to think ahead for this anyhow.   Let alone the question of what would the Data Protection and Handling Policy of the UK post referendum look like if we exited?

Technology is global.  Manufacturers are producing to global standards – and yet we still have geographic data protection regulations to adhere to.  Would a global data protection standard work?  Could nation states agree to subsume their local preferred interests against a global framework and would this mean watering it down to gain agreement?

What do you think?

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Cyber Security – Top Tip Takeaways

Following our Cyber Security Round Table event chaired by Amicus ITS’ Head of Technology & Governance JP Norman, on Wednesday 24th June at IBM, delegates discussed the core issues affecting public and private sector organisations. The key takeaway points for all organisations is detailed below:

Top Tip Takeaways:

1.    The urgent need to raise awareness of the EU Data Directive,  its potential impact and 5%  TO financial penalties.
2.    To consider the impact and to plan ahead if we voted to opt out of the EU in the UK Referendum
3.    The need for organisations to educate staff on the issues and impact of cyber security, data and correct device use.
4.    To secure Board engagement on risk from cyber security breaches to recognise the resulting commercial fallout from loss of trust.
5.    Appoint a Data Controller and create core stakeholder engagement across departments.
6.    Organisations to implement and regularly review quality BYOD processes and manage web browsing and software applications.
7.    Organisations need to control data streaming and ensure it stays in the UK to remain compliant.
8.    Match security awareness by staff with maximising their productivity for the business.
9.    Ensuring your 3rd party supply chain have the same compliance checks, liabilities and recognised failure penalties to accompany your due diligence processes.
10.   To treat VOIP the same as any other form of data from cyber security POV and award it the same protections and covered by the same regulations as other data.
11.   Have an up to date digital policy and security measures within HR whatever the nature of the leaver to avoid data breach.

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