Neil Burbidge on Brexit: “Flint Has Proven Itself Very Capable of Adapting”

On January 1st, after a long and tortuous negotiation, the United Kingdom has left the European Union having completed the transition period. To understand the implications of Brexit on Flint and the wider UK ICT industry we spoke to Flint Group CEO Neil Burbidge.

“Firstly, Flint has proven itself very capable of adapting to the many changes in our industry over its 20-year life. Flint started as a niche UK-centric packet switching services company, yet by following our customers and listening to their evolving needs, Flint finished 2020 with over 800 associates and projects spanning the EMEAR, Asia Pac and North America region, with more than 50% of the business overseas. Those customer needs won’t disappear because of Brexit. Our challenge remains to provide the best service to our customers in an efficient and timely fashion suiting their business. We’ll continue to work our hardest to meet those needs,” assured Neil.

He added: “On a practical basis we’re very experienced at handling visa and international working challenges. While there’s likely to be some degree of extra transactional friction if we’re solving, as an example, a European challenge with a UK service resource. We have great teams on the ground (within five European Flint entities) from which we can assign key resources for those projects in the EU.”

Brexit and the Economy

From a broader perspective, Neil mentioned: “The UK government now has to follow through on its promise to the people of the UK and create an industrial policy independent of Europe. Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister, said in his 1st speech of 2021 that he wants to use the new opportunities Brexit provides to pioneer developments in biosciences, artificial intelligence and battery and wind power technology 1.An emphasis away from the City of London and ‘money-making’ to technology; ‘making with money’ would only help the UK ICT industry, but we have to recognise this will be a long-term project for the government, so I don’t expect immediate benefits. The growth of our industry self-evidently depends on the general wellbeing of the UK economy. Speaking to that point, the coronavirus pandemic has brought on a recession globally, changing the economic outlook for the next few years. Our industry was quick to adapt, but still, it has felt the repercussions. Governments will be concerned with the economic recovery, presumably leaving some plans of the UK government to invest in the development of non-essential ICT projects side-lined.”

Look Into the Future

“In summary”, Neil concluded, “while as a businessman I naturally prefer friction-free international borders, the UK and Europe have a great common heritage and business has the protection of sensible rules and open and fair legal systems. That’s very, very valuable to all the stakeholders of Flint.  

I’d like to end on an upbeat. The UK ICT industry, like Europe, is in the starting phase of rolling out 5G. This will be the underlying enabling technology for a host of new applications which I think will transform our daily lives over the next 20 years. Autonomous vehicles and AI sound very science fiction. Still, they bring about our children’s potential to live in cleaner and more efficient cities, further democratise education and other services and make life better. 5G is an international standard. We all worked to define that standard. And I look forward to helping with it’s implementation for everyone in Europe.”

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1 Ross, T. (2020, December 31). Boris Johnson vows to turn UK into a science superpower after Brexit. Bloomberg.

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