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No Deal Brexit will mean "dark, dystopian UK" | Opinion

Andy Payne discusses the potential impact of a No Deal Brexit on the UK games industry

Ever since the EU referendum result suggested that the UK would leave the EU -- by a very narrow majority -- I have feared for the UK games industry.

As a long term advocate, activist and actual fighter for the UK games industry, I have seen it experience many peaks and troughs. I fought personally for 10 years to get successive UK governments to introduce the video games tax relief in order to reverse the talent drain from the UK to Canada. I remember being told by government, civil servants and some games companies that the EU would never allow this as it went against State Aid rules. Indeed one of our trade associations was distinctly moot when it came to supporting this call back in the day.

Andy_Payne_colour

Andy Payne, AppyNation

I remember reading the legal advice line by line and taking what I thought was either lazy or plain wrong thinking to task. Myself, Ian Livingstone and TIGA made the case for years and we backed it with evidence, all the time seeing first-hand the effect that the Canadian initiatives were having on our talent and our industry. Friends of mine upped sticks and left for pastures new. It broke my heart.

Eventually, in February 2010 (now with the full support of UKIE, too), a Labour government accepted the arguments we had made and granted the Video Games Tax Relief measures we desperately needed to sustain and grow our amazing industry again. Sadly on the 20th of June that same year, George Osborne the Tory chancellor, threw that policy out and we took yet another step back. Did we give up? Did we hell.

All of us who had been there from the start pressed on and continued to build evidence and lobby for change. Two years later, we got the Video Games Tax Relief back. Every year since then we have seen amazing returns for the UK treasury and the UK industry has grown and prospered. Add to this the fact that the UK also became the tech start up capital of Europe with investor capital flowing in to take advantages of solid tax incentives such as EIS and SEIS, and things were really looking up.

We were a magnet for incredibly talented people from all over the world, people who enjoyed our open and liberal values. People who wanted to come to the UK to make their lives, build businesses and have their families. The UK had an enviable reputation and was a country with clear and robust IP and property laws. We were a country known for pragmatism and diplomacy.

Fast forward to 2019. We have a government who seem to be deaf to the views of people who both start and work in businesses. We have a government who want to throw up some half-arsed immigration policy with arbitrary salary thresholds which make no sense, other than to pander to those who feel immigration is a nation killer. A government which consistently ignores mounting evidence from its own civil service that clearly proves that leaving the EU will make the UK poorer on all levels. A government which refuses to countenance any change of course, despite the evidence that voters would like a chance to have their final say on whether they actually want the deal that they have actually negotiated. A government who quote the 'will of the people' as opposed to listening to the people.

"Decades of trading and legal agreements will be shredded instantly. We have absolutely no precedent for this event, let alone for a country as complex as the UK"

Add to that this government's point blank refusal to rule out a car crash 'No Deal Brexit' where we leave in an unruly fashion, without an agreed withdrawal agreement. And yet they tell us, the real wealth creators and contributors, to make our plans for a No Deal exit from the EU. How can we possibly make plans for something so outrageously callous as a No Deal?

Decades of trading and legal agreements will be shredded instantly. We have absolutely no precedent for this event, let alone for a country as advanced and complex as the UK. We really are in fantasy land, except its not full of vibrant coloured horses with single horns, rather we are looking at a dark dystopian UK. The direct opposite to what we had pre-June 23rd 2016. The government has some plan called Operation Yellowhammer which refers to 'unanticipated impacts', whatever those are. More tellingly, the people paid to identify all the risks don't even know what they are talking about. And they tell us to make our plans.

I have had frank conversations with civil servants, MPs and Government Ministers and it is clear. They are very, very scared. Fellow business leaders are also very, very scared. And yet the Government claim that that they cannot take 'No Deal off the table'. If I ran my businesses like this, I would be fired or worse still we would go out of business.

So what next? Well it is clear that our data and taxation laws will be dust in the event of a No Deal. That means we will need a subsidiary office inside the EU27 to ensure we are data and VAT/tax compliant and ensure our business does not fall over. Indeed many of these EU27 countries are making it easy for UK games companies to do this and an office in Ireland, Germany, Spain, Portugal or the Netherlands may be our destiny.

It kills me to say this, but under this government, the UK has not only gone backwards, but has wrecked our reputation for stability, pragmatism and diplomacy. This government shows no sign whatsoever of changing course, resolutely wedded to a skewed view of democracy whilst simultaneously refusing to countenance any real time democratic voice at all. Why on earth would you want to build a business here in the UK under this regime?

What a shame we are where we are. We had to so good and we've trashed it. As I write this, Honda and other inward investors clearly agree with me. Game over for the UK? Let's hope our government see sense in the next week or so and rule out a No Deal Brexit.

Andy Payne is the founder of AppyNation and JustFlight, as well as a games industry investor. He is also on the advisory board for anti-Brexit group Games4EU

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Latest comments (11)

Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios2 months ago
Well said Andy. I'm clinging to the hope that MPs will do the sensible thing as the Government become increasingly incoherent...
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Yeesh. What a pickle. Just by dint of numbers, many on this site will disagree with what you wrote. Rather than go into Brexit, I'll speak on why it makes me so nervous. I remember the march to war in Iraq in 2003, where the nation split 50/50 into one camp that saw us sleepwalking to obvious disaster (pessimists) and another that wanted to support the government and only wished the country to do well (optimists). Canny operators then played the camps off of each other to neuter the publics impact on the government’s actions: the public/media discussion was framed & limited to "are we doing this war correctly" in order to suppress the conversation we really needed to have which was "why are we invading Iraq all". If you brought that up you opened yourself to being labelled undemocratic (Gov have a huge majority, loser), unpatriotic and possibly a friend to terrorists.
As many thought then and we have proved now the entire war project was con, a vast democratic sham, and horror has swept the middle east ever since. That taught me that on historic issues, if we ignore the evidence in front of our faces, millions and millions and millions of decent people - your friends, your family, neighbours - can be overtly and publicly wrong about something with truly frightening consequences and that disaster stalks these exact situations. So yes an EU vote happened and yes people have their opinions but numbers and faith have nothing to do with the grinding linear inevitability of a turning world. Events, it turns out, are rarely moved by emotions.
At this stage of Brexit, anybody sensible no matter how one voted should be looking not at what our entirely faked ‘camps’ are saying but what the concrete evidence in front of us tells us all about the nations choices. By way of example I used to be a euro-sceptic until I met Farage and his international band of extremist cranks and criminals, liars to a man.
Andy could have written a whole other article on the facts: year on year foreign investment in the UK is down 11% since the vote, while UK companies investing overseas has jumped 12%. Every pound in the pockets of British citizens is worth 13% less since 2016 and if Brexit happens prices will rise all over the nation, overnight. Boost to exports maybe? To quote Ivan Rogers, the previous 2.5 yrs of collapsing devaluation have engendered “the most anaemic boost to UK net trade triggered by any major sterling devaluation since World War 2.”
So less money coming in, more money leaving, in a country where everyone is getting poorer. This is reality, removed from the waffle of liars. This is the future.
Just like the Iraq war, it can all be stopped. Are we brave or adult enough to face that? My feeling is that like Iraq, for all our crowing about “the greatest democratic vote in British history” deep down people prefer to have great questions answered for them and this lunatic government will get to run riot, closely stalked by disaster.
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Ewan Lamont CEO, Legendary Games2 months ago
This whole debate seems to have become like a religion with either side being totally incapable of engaging with the threats of their own position and opportunities of the other. Speaking as a BoB just make a bloody call and get on with it, one way or the other. The uncertainty is worse than any in or out call.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ewan Lamont on 26th February 2019 5:09pm

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Show all comments (11)
Andy Payne Chair/founder, AppyNation2 months ago
@Ewan Lamont: Its frustrating given that evidence and data produced by the Government itself seems to be completely ignored. You are right, it feels like faith and religion now.
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Andy Payne Chair/founder, AppyNation2 months ago
@Barry Meade: Awesome reply Barry. Proper use of stats too. You make so many great points as always. Time for a piece from you and your brilliant team I reckon.
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic keyboard basher, Avasopht Ltd2 months ago
Brexit is only half of the problem. The other problem, which is a much bigger threat to our economy and country as a whole is the rampant insincerity, blatant dishonesty and machiavellian influences taking centre stage of our government.

That is not the type power and influence we can afford to be behind the government that will take us through the next decade.

The disinforming of the public by the most influential political players for their own political gain is reprehensible - more than happy to appeal to populism, stirring the pot of xenophobia and purposely creating hostility towards various minorities.

I am much less concerned about Brexit than I am of the malignancy that steers our government. Well, more disappointed than anything.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 26th February 2019 8:31pm

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 2 months ago
Ask any person on the planet to chop a tree with their bare hands and they will have the good sense to ask for a tool to help them.

Ask any person to run a country on their own and they will assume their brain to be sufficient for the job, requiring no tool to assist it.

In addition, sports teams, companies and universities have selection processes based on ability. Politicians are selected based on popularity, much like entertainment products such as movies or video games.

Put all these things together and I ask you what could ever go wrong?
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@Keldon Alleyne: Exactly right. Who even remembers the EU Referendum any more? If *only* it was just about that.
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Andy Payne Chair/founder, AppyNation2 months ago
@Barry Meade: Exactly. Keldon nails it as well. Utterly depressing
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Andy Payne Chair/founder, AppyNation2 months ago
@Barry Meade: Exactly. Keldon nails it as well. Utterly depressing
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Mark Baker Technical Director 2 months ago
Totally agree Andy! As an immigrant to Europe (Brit living in Sweden) I often get asked what's going on with Brexit or to try and explain why things are happening. I used to give much longer answers but these days I generally just say "No idea - it's madness" but usually with far less polite words.
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