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A Brexit Breakfast
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(Photo:L-R, Rt. Hon Greg Hands, MP; Liam Maxwell, UK National Tech Advisor; Hope Cochran, Venture Partner, Madrona Venture Group; Rex Hughes, Advisor to Madrona ) 

This week, Madrona hosted the Right Honorable Greg Hands, MP the UK Minister of State for Trade and Investment to talk about the future of Seattle/UK relations in the face of Brexit.

Meeting in Madrona’s appropriately named Alan Turing conference room, and co-hosted with the Discovery Institute, 30 technology company execs, investors and policy experts engaged with Minister Hands and UK government representatives from the Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles consulates on a variety of political and economic topics focused on the British Brexit from the European Union.

Minister Hands opened his remarks by emphasizing the strong high tech links between the two countries. Cambridge, and the cluster of companies and labs located near the city which is also known as Silicon Fen, has strong ties to Seattle and Bellevue.  It is the site of a substantial Microsoft Research Lab and the location of Amazon’s first Prime Air flight in 2016.

According to Minister Hands, despite the uncertainties that continue to unfold after the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, the UK remains a good place for American firms to conduct European business due to a 1) Established Political system (mature institutions and rule of law)  2) Strong Economy (educated workers to hire and a relatively wealthy populace) 3) Business Environment (employment is at record high and the UK boasts the lowest corporate tax in the G20.)

In his remarks the Minister outlined the desire to create free trade agreements bi-laterally with the US and advocated why this benefits all involved.  John Miller, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute has advocated such policies and proposed a broad free trade agreement along the lines of the ones the US has with two other countries in the Commonwealth – Australia and Canada.

Companies around the table agreed that the UK is an incredibly important market and also a great jumping off point for them to the rest of Europe.  To concerns about freedom of movement from the UK to the EU, the Minister gave reassurances that the present government is working to create relationships that benefit the UK and its partners.  Another issue that will be up for discussion is how the UK will implement (or not) the GDPR. The General Data Protection Regulation, a landmark privacy regulation set to go into effect soon, governs how companies can use consumer information and assigns the hefty fines associated for mismanagement.

It will be an interesting two years as UK-EU Brexit negotiations continue and the policies of the new UK Department of International Trade go into effect.