The outcome of the general election has created greater uncertainty over the impact of Brexit on the telecommunications sector, BT chief exec Gavin Patterson has said.
"It is pretty uncertain. What we were expecting this time last week and where we are now.. if it was unstable and uncertain this time last week, it’s gone up a notch now," he said.
Last week UK prime minister Theresa May had hoped the general election would increase her party's share of MPs and strengthen her negotiating position with the European Union. Instead it has created a hung Parliament and led the PM to attempt to hammer out a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party to get backing for her minority government.
Speaking at BT’s Innovation Week 2017 at the firm's labs in Adastral Park, Patterson said Brexit poses a threat to R&D in the UK.
"And at its heart the best research is a collaborative experience. So ensuring we can continue to attract the best scientists and engineers to this country and that they are able to get the right funding and they are able to access the right network is really key."
He added: "The UK does extraordinarily well out of the current EC funding models.
"We need to make sure we don’t lose that competitive edge as we move through the Brexit negotiations."
On subject of fibre network investment, Patterson said the UK would "ultimately get to a situation where the whole of the country is fibre.” But he did not say when that would be. BT has previously been criticised for dragging its feet over broadband fibre investment.
BT has so far committed to two million pure fibre connections by 2020. However, following Openreach’s legal separation from BT, chief exec of Openreach Clive Selley said the broadband division may increase that target.
Adastral Park houses nearly 3,000 BT workers, and is also the base for the company’s tech incubator. Patterson said BT had invested over £2.5bn on research and development over the past five years. ®