UKIP MP Douglas Carswell claimed on Wednesday that the UK’s technology sector would do better if the UK left the European Union.
The politician, a Member of Parliament for Clacton, made his remarks when replying to London mayoral candidate Sajid Javid who had asked Twitter what should be included in the UK’s upcoming Digital Strategy if the nation’s tech sector is to do even more for the economy.
Carswell replied saying exempting the UK from “single market red tape” on digital services and EU VAT rules would be a “good start”.
He accompanied his Tweet with a hashtag reading #DigitalSaysLeave, which is interesting given the vast majority of people working in the UK tech sector actually want to stay in the EU based on this survey from industry trade body techUK.
A number of tech entrepreneurs, policymakers, and investors got involved in the debate, with Eileen Burbidge, a business advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron and an early employee at Skype, among the first to counter Carswell’s remarks.
Carswell retweeted Burbidge and misquoted her in his accompanying comment, saying she claimed that “all” of Britain’s digital businesses are pro-EU, when in fact she said “no one she knew.”
A number of UKIP voters rallied to support Carswell anyway, with IT and cloud consulting company North IT claiming regulation from the EU stops the from selling apps to Europe. The company wrote on Twitter: “We’re a digital company. We’re OUT.”
Many other UKIP supporters tweeted Burbidge, chair of Tech City UK, to let her know that they were in favour of a Brexit (British exit from the EU).
Burbidge asked those that want an EU exit to email her with more information on why.
The number of UKIP supporters sharing their pro-Brexit views seemed to catch Burbidge by surprise.
Several well-known faces in the UK tech sector took sides with Burbidge, including Guy Levin, the cofounder and CEO of Coadec (the Coalition for a Digital Economy) and James Clark, who works at the British Venture Capital Association.
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