The CEO and founder of a hugely successful London fintech company says many tech entrepreneurs are “deeply offended” by the government’s post-Brexit stance on immigration.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd signalled a tough stance on immigration in her speech to the Conservative Party conference earlier this month, calling for companies to recruit British workers and suggesting that lists of foreign employees should be drawn up to discourage overseas recruitment.
The speech provoked a backlash from the business community and Peter Smith, the CEO and founder of Blockchain, says that the tech sector is particularly aggrieved, given the high proportion of foreign entrepreneurs who have chosen to set up businesses in Britain.
Smith told Business Insider: “In private, a lot of tech entrepreneurs are deeply offended by this because there aren’t any top UK tech companies run by Brits. A lot of the entrepreneurs are from Eastern Europe and a lot of nasty things have been said about there. We generate real jobs.”
“I for one am not offended, but I am deeply concerned about how it will affect the UK tech industries ability to compete in the current global market over the long-term.”
TransferWise, the online international money transfer company reportedly worth over $1.1 billion, publically criticised Amber Rudd’s immigration policy in a blog post. The company is run by two Estonian expats and employs over 26 different nationalities.
LendInvest, an online mortgage finance company set up by an Australian expat in London, has also criticised the government’s stance on foreign workers, saying a crackdown “will be a competitive disadvantage for the UK.”
Smith, who is from America originally, says this is the dominant feeling among technology entrepreneurs in the capital, many of whom lean heavily on international talent to recruit for specialist roles.
Smith says he will think seriously about relocating Blockchain away from London if there’s a crackdown on visas and immigration.
He told Business Insider: “The UK simply doesn’t have enough talent to compete globally. It’s going to put a lot of businesses in a tough position. If you’re in London it’s because you want to compete in a global market and no single market has enough talent to compete globally on its own.”
Blockchain employs around 25 people in London but also has offices in Luxembourg and New York. The company is the world’s biggest provider of digital wallets for bitcoin and processes over 150,000 transactions a day. It has raised over $30 million to date.
Smith says: “For what it’s worth, I’m not anti-Brexit. If they could find a way to exit gracefully this could be a good opportunity. Brexit could be a huge opportunity because Europe is only going to get more unstable. If the UK had a great pro-business agenda it could be great but that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
Smiths comments come amid reports of a row in the government between Chancellor Philip Hammond and other more pro-Brexit members of the cabinet over Britain’s post-Brexit immigration policy.
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