Here we are at the start of the Brexit negotiations, with European politicians thinking that the UK government is responsible for the exit, whilst many of the UK politicians seem to forget that it was the electorate that triggered the whole thing when given the chance to vote. The fact is that more people turned out to vote in the UK than have ever voted for anything, ever. On the table appears to be a suggestion by the UK negotiators that some form of trade ‘deal’ is needed, but as we are both a net contributor to the EU, a net purchaser of goods and 80 percent of our economy is based on services and not industrial/goods production, why do we need permission to buy?
What does this have to do with data centers?
Over the time of my engineering career, starting in 1968, the UK industrial landscape has changed beyond recognition – from a place where we had lots of manufacturing and engineering jobs and made ‘stuff’ from iron, steel, glass and plastics (all of which we also produced in bulk from raw materials) to where we are today – buying almost everything (most often from China, either directly or indirectly) with very low employment opportunities in engineering and manufacturing. That said, we have the lowest rate of unemployment in Europe, so do we need a ‘deal’? Probably, but not at any price.
I think that the EU consumer goods, car and food manufacturers need us as a market more than we need them. It is, however, very clear that we need to protect and preserve our ‘invisible’ trade – and particularly our dominance in data center infrastructure, clustered as it is around the London markets.
So imagine my surprise, when I received an invitation to visit a large number of Dutch data centers on Dec 5/7th with a view to encouraging UK businesses to migrate to NL. Why was I surprised? I encourage all sorts of data centers in all sorts of geographical locations – in fact my livelihood depends to a large extent on spreading data center knowledge – but this invitation came from a joint-venture between the Dutch Datacentre Association and our very own Department for International Trade. Yes… uk.gov.
Our Embassy in The Hague, instead of understanding our economy and encouraging business to flow into the UK, is actively (I presume spending UK taxpayer cash in the process) promoting direct competition by enticing UK ICT organizations to migrate to Amsterdam. It is bad enough that our politicians seem oblivious to what we do best, but now the professional civil service (I used to think the backbone of our administration, and trusted advisors to transient politicians) appear to be auditioning for the next series of ‘Yes, Minister’… I despair and, as dear friend said to me when I told them: you couldn’t make it up…
Ian Bitterlin is a consulting engineer at Critical Facilities Consulting Ltd and a visiting professor to the University of Leeds, School of Mechanical Engineering. He also trains data center staff at DCPRO