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Brexit draft agreement “not ideal” for UK games industry

Trade bodies and other industry organisations warn of further uncertainty following Prime Minister's proposed withdrawal deal

The withdrawal agreement for the UK's exit from the European Union has been met with a mixed response by the key representatives of the games industry.

On the one hand, trade bodies UKIE and TIGA both agree that reaching such an agreement is a sign of progress in the ongoing Brexit progress, and means businesses should be able to continue operations with confidence in the short term.

However, today's disputes within Parliament suggest the government is far from united on how to proceed and this could spell further uncertainty for games firms in the UK.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced yesterday evening that a draft agreement had been agreed upon by the Cabinet, and the 585-page proposal was even published for the public to read.

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Dr Jo Twist, UKIE

A vote will now be held in the House of Commons and if the members of parliament agree to the terms laid out in the document, the aim is to have it signed off with EU leaders at the end of the month.

Having explored the terms of this withdrawal agreement, both UKIE and TIGA agree it offers some hope for British games firms.

"The UK games industry depends on access to market, the free flow of data and access to talent from the EU to thrive, it is powered by a global workforce and is at the forefront of digital and technological innovation," UKIE CEO Dr Jo Twist told GamesIndustry.biz.

"The draft agreement, whilst not ideal, at least provides businesses with the security that trade can and will continue without the chaos and uncertainty of a no-deal situation. In particular it is good to see a clear statement regarding the free flow of data, something essential to our sector.

"Based on events today in Parliament, it looks like there is great uncertainty ahead and the deal in its current form may not pass a vote"

Dr Richard Wilson, TIGA

"We must wait now to see how Parliament reacts to the deal, and if this is rejected in the 'meaningful vote' we risk further uncertainty, a no deal will prove to be a huge disruption to the way we do business in the UK."

Similarly, TIGA CEO Dr Richard Wilson said his organisation was "pleased that the government and the EU has reached a technical agreement that can unlock negotiations on the future relationship".

Looking more specifically at the proposal, TIGA is "happy that EU citizens' important contributions to the games industry and the UK as whole will continue", but had reservations about whether games firms in Britain would have a level playing field.

"It is not ideal that restrictions on state aid remain in place," Wilson said. "Going forward, the UK may want to intervene more extensively in industries of the future. Our ability to do so would be limited by the agreement in its current form, but would not differ from the status quo."

He concluded: "We want to see a close relationship between the UK and EU. A close and unprecedented economic partnership will ultimately benefit both sides.

"Based on events today in Parliament, it looks like there is great uncertainty ahead and the deal in its current form may not pass a vote."

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George Osborn, Games4EU

Unsurprisingly, the agreement faces a more critical reception from anti-Brexit group Games4EU. The organisation released a white paper earlier this month warning that any form of Brexit would cause "considerable uncertainty and bureaucracy" for UK games firms.

Its concerns ranged from increased costs for games software, hardware and subscriptions, challenges in recruiting and retaining talent from overseas, disruption to digital services through the lack of pan-EU access to trade and personal data and more.

The group's co-founder George Osborn told us: "The withdrawal agreement combined with the future political declaration, whilst providing a longer transition timeline than anticipated, does not satisfactorily address the main concerns we recently raised in our Brexit Guide.

"UK interactive entertainment businesses still face massive uncertainty which will we think will result in long term competitive disadvantages - damaging the sector as a whole for the foreseeable future.

"The truth of the matter is this document leaves us in a worse position during the negotiation period, and neither represents the Brexit that the Leave campaign promised to voters or any improvement on the benefits we get from our current EU membership.

"We therefore maintain our call for a People's Vote to avoid this unsatisfactory outcome and give voters the final say."

The Prime Minister is due to offer an update in a press conference at 5pm today, but has faced massive resistance from both parties. Today has also seen the resignation of several key ministers protesting the deal, including Brexit secretary Dominic Raab.

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Latest comments (1)

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 28 days ago
As long as politicians win elections and make careers based on antagonism and keeping people in a loop of insecurity and uncertainty no modern industry will find the condition it seeks.
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