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IBM doesn't think Brexit is such a bad thing these days

Big Blue now claims upsides to EU exit that others have failed to see

IBM has extolled the benefits of the UK's departure from the world's richest trade bloc in an apparent U-turn on its earlier Brexit stance.

In an interview with The Telegraph, IBM UK and Ireland general manager Sreeram Visvanathan predicted Britain will have "the ability to do a lot more, post Brexit."

He also said there was an appetite for innovation among UK regulators since they were no longer bound by EU law.

"I've seen the regulators be very open... I've seen us move away from that hard stance of 'this is the mandate and thou shalt obey the mandate.' There's a willingness to listen and to adapt," he told the Brexit-supporting broadsheet newspaper.

Visvanathan said UK businesses should show greater leadership, be more imaginative, and embrace change faster.

"It's a very specific area of passion for me, because I don't see too many leaders embracing that as quickly as I think we should," he said.

Businesses that have come out against Brexit include IBM itself.

Before the UK's EU referendum, David Stokes, the tech giant's UK chief at the time, said Brexit would put jobs and the economy at risk.

"IBM is in favor of the UK remaining a member of a reformed EU," said Stokes in an internal blog seen by us. "As a large, globally integrated business with a strong presence across the European Union, IBM sees significant benefits from EU economic integration."

EMC, Cisco and Microsoft were among the other large tech firms to support the UK's continued membership of the EU.

Following the vote, IBM went on to warn of the dangers of a no-deal Brexit.

The UK did strike a deal with the EU, one which then prime minister Boris Johnson backed as an "oven-ready" package he could get through Parliament following a general election, which he went on to win in 2019. Then, in 2022, the UK said it wanted to renegotiate the bits of the deal relating to Northern Ireland, which shares a land border with the EU.

IBM now appears to have changed its mind, citing flexibility in regulation - we guess it has little choice. Since the UK left the EU, politicians have talked up Brexit's ability to create supposed "pro-innovation" data regulations.

Getting its second reading in the House of Commons, the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill sets out how the UK plans to diverge from data protection legislation introduced during its membership of the European Union.

Former digital and culture secretary Nadine Dorries claimed last month that new data reforms would unlock growth and save businesses around £1 billion ($1.15 billion) over the next 10 years.

Legal experts have pointed out that if the UK diverges too far from the basic principles of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it will pay the price through the loss of its adequacy status for data sharing to and from the trade bloc, a move that would add to businesses' costs. ®

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