Rishi Sunak: UK must protect tech secrets from hostile state actors

The chancellor has called for stricter foreign investment regulations in order to protect jobs

The UK needs to be wary of “hostile state actors” planning to extract technology and jobs out of the country, according to chancellor Rishi Sunak.

In a live Q&A session on LinkedIn last week, Sunak warned that the UK needs stricter regulations regarding foreign investment in order to give the government “the power to intervene if necessary”.

Although Sunak did not refer to any country by name, the comments could have been directed to China after Huawei was banned from the UK’s 5G infrastructure due to security concerns. 

The tech giant is accused of having ties to the Chinese government and being exploited for espionage. Following the US sanctions imposed on Huawei earlier this year, the UK officially blacklisted Huawei in July, and the ban has the potential to influence the country’s trade relations with China and the world.

“We have always been a country open to foreign investment and it has been very good for us. It has driven up productivity and is part of what makes our economy dynamic,” said Sunak. 

“But we really need to be eyes wide open because, sadly, in the world in which we’re living there are hostile state actors that come to invest and try to extract technology out of the UK, or indeed jobs.”

The chancellor’s calls for stricter investment regulations might also have an influence on the UK’s relations with the European Union post-Brexit. Last month, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) called for the UK government to provide transition vouchers for firms ahead of the country's latest round of talks with the EU.

"The economy is in a very different place today compared to the last time we were told to prepare for a no-deal outcome. Small firms don't have the time or money to get across new bureaucracy or stockpile,” said FSB national chairman Mike Cherry.

Although the government has yet to respond to the plea, Sunak today announced the launch of a £238 million back-to-work scheme. The Jobs Entry Targeted Support (JETS) will aim to help those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic find employment again.

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