The best possible position for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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The risk if we were in the EU

The benefit of Brexit

As we venture further into the age of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, the landscape of labour and industry is poised for unprecedented change. While the transformative potential of these technologies is vast, the prospective displacement of jobs has understandably prompted a degree of concern. Yet, post-Brexit UK is uniquely positioned to harness this technological revolution, equipped with newfound control over critical areas like state aid and AI regulation. The autonomy gained through Brexit allows the UK to navigate the complexities of the AI era, ensuring the protection of our workers and creating opportunities for growth and prosperity.

State Aid and AI Regulation: Navigating the Changing Landscape

Following Brexit, the UK government introduced a new system for state aid, encapsulated in the Subsidy Control Bill. This pivotal legislation delineates the conditions under which businesses can access public funding, marking a significant departure from the EU's state aid regulations. Our new approach targets bureaucracy reduction and accelerated funding access for businesses. This streamlined process allows for targeted support to sectors most vulnerable to disruption from AI and automation. It enables a proactive stance towards reskilling initiatives and job transition programmes, which are paramount in ensuring a smooth transition for workers amidst the changing labour landscape.

Simultaneously, the UK has undertaken considerable strides towards establishing a robust stance on AI regulation. In September 2021, the UK government unveiled the National AI Strategy, an ambitious plan outlining how the UK will assert itself as a global leader in AI. This strategy underscores investment in AI technologies, ensuring benefits across all sectors and regions of the UK, and robust governance.

The UK's AI strategy does not currently provide a clear definition of AI nor a definitive stance on data protection, privacy, and algorithmic bias. However, it manifests a promising willingness to evolve and adapt. The government's 'wait and see' approach to data governance implies a balanced strategy that values the importance of learning from AI developments as they unfold. This measured yet forward-looking stance stands as a testament to the UK's capacity to navigate the AI revolution with agility and foresight, thanks to the autonomy provided by Brexit.

The UK has a long and exceptional history in AI – from codebreaker Alan Turing’s early work through to London-based powerhouse DeepMind’s pioneering research which will enable quicker and more advanced drug discovery. The country is ranked third in the world for private venture capital investment into AI companies (2019 investment into the UK reached almost £2.5 billion) and home to a third of Europe’s total AI companies

A New Era: AI Regulation in 2022 and Beyond

In Q1 2022, the UK government solidified its commitment to establishing a dynamic AI ecosystem with the publication of a National AI Strategy. This strategy, one of the first major regulatory divergences between the EU and the UK post-Brexit, is notably pro-innovation. It seeks to create an environment that fosters the development and deployment of AI technologies while minimizing regulatory burdens.

There are a few key differences that distinguish the UK's approach from the EU's proposed AI Act. Firstly, the UK's strategy promotes a decentralized approach to AI regulation. It leverages the expertise of existing regulators and rejects the notion of a single overarching AI regulator. In contrast, the EU's AI Act proposal encompasses a list of prohibited AI practices and high-risk AI systems, which have to comply with stringent requirements and undergo a conformity assessment.

In the UK, the decision on whether certain AI use cases should be prohibited or subject to higher regulation is left to sector-specific regulators.

The UK has opted for a path that doesn’t immediately call for new legislation. Instead, the government proposes to initially place cross-sectoral principles on a non-statutory footing, perhaps by issuing executive guidance or a specific mandate to regulators. While this doesn't rule out the potential for new legislation in the future, it does highlight the UK's flexible, responsive approach to AI governance.

This approach embodies the spirit of innovation central to the UK's AI strategy. The strategy is geared towards promoting investment in AI applications, facilitating integration of AI into various industries, and employing existing structures rather than setting up new ones. The mindset driving the strategy is permissive, aiming to ease innovation while ensuring public harm is mitigated where clear evidence exists. This strategy ensures that our AI landscape is fit for purpose, sensitive to our national context, and ready to respond to rapid technological evolution.

However, it is essential to be cognizant of the potential challenges that this divergent approach to AI regulation might pose. It could make it harder for UK-based AI developers to operate in the EU, which is expected to finalize its own AI laws in the near future.

The European Commission, on the other hand, has set a slower pace with their AI Regulation proposal, focusing on high-risk AI systems. Their legislative process involves prolonged periods of debate and consultation, sometimes lasting up to an additional 12 months.

Brexit: Empowering the UK in the AI Revolution

As we stand on the cusp of the AI and automation revolution, Brexit can be viewed as an empowering force for the UK. With the flexibility and control afforded by our newfound sovereignty, the UK is better equipped to adapt and innovate. We can shape our future in response to the rapidly evolving technology landscape, unhindered by the complexities of a larger, more complex legislative system.

In the face of uncertainty, Brexit equips us with the tools to protect our workers, manage societal impacts, and seize the opportunities that these new technologies undoubtedly present. This autonomy, the capacity to shape our destiny in the age of AI and automation, positions us to respond effectively to the challenges ahead and reap the rewards of this new era of technological advancement.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, as we navigate the AI revolution, the UK, bolstered by Brexit, stands prepared. With control over state aid and the ability to craft our own AI regulations, we can meet the challenges of this transformative era head-on. We can protect our workers, foster innovation, and unlock unprecedented opportunities for growth and prosperity. Brexit has equipped us with the autonomy and flexibility necessary to navigate the uncertainties and leverage the potential of this AI-driven age. We, as a sovereign nation, are not just prepared for the future; we are shaping it.