UK digi strategy on ice post Brexit results - sources

Q: Just how do we untangle Gov.UK systems from the EU regs and policy? A: Messily

BREXIT The UK government's long-awaited digital strategy has been put on ice following the landmark EU referendum decision last week, The Register has learnt.

The strategy was intended to be a mixed bag of policy from the department for Culture, Media & Sport, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Cabinet Office's Government Digital Service.

Among other areas it intended to outline plans for Blighty's digital infrastructure, as well as a strategy for GDS. Back in March, culture secretary Ed Vaizey said that it would be postponed until after the referendum.

However, following the vote for Brexit, the plan is being put on hold again while civil servants scratch their heads and work out what to do next.

Sources told The Register that departments will hold meetings with the Cabinet Office this week about what the decision means for tech.

In fact a break from the EU will pose a huge technocratic challenge for Whitehall, as bureaucrats calculate how to untangle myriad systems from EU policy and regulations.

Just some of those areas will include tackling funding for science, addressing broadband subsidies, overhauling the Rural Payments Agency's IT system - which allocates funding to farmers based on EU regulations - and the Home Office's borders systems.

Also if Scotland and Northern Ireland choose to split from the UK, that will also require additional changes to all of Whitehall's IT systems.

One source suggested a sensible approach would be to reboot the entire strategy. "Given the extent of change that's going to be needed it's probably easier to do that than to try to pick apart and rebuild the spaghetti of systems in place ... although doubtless the system integrators would prefer the latter."

He added: "I suspect they'll have to fire up work to sort this out now – once the formal Article 50 starts that's a two-year time limit. But it usually takes a Whitehall department two years to produce the PowerPoint decks setting out its options, let alone delivering any changes to systems."

Another source added: "Whatever happens, the delivery agenda has come to a screeching halt. No one will want to make any proper decisions until there’s a new prime minister and Cabinet in place and, even then, no one will want to decide until they know the shape that things are going to take.

"Lots of people will be taken offline to start scenario planning so there will be fewer people around to think through what we do with today’s problems." ®

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