A Tory MP who left financial services two years ago to join parliament said Monday that politicians are forgetting about real-world issues as a result of Brexit and are sidelining things that have a bigger impact on voters.
“Parliament is a very odd place at the moment and Brexit is consuming everything. Even the most unconnected of issues are being forced back into Brexit. We haven’t been able to focus for many months now on anything else,” Lee Rowley MP told the audience at the AltFi London Summit.
“MPs are forgetting, in my view, that life goes on outside of this topic. It is the kind of work that you’re doing and the discussions that you’re having that in my view will have a much greater salience over the coming years and months and decades than necessarily Brexit will.”
Rowley was addressing an audience made up of financial technology entrepreneurs, advisors, and investors, spanning areas such as banking and lending.
He said that he believes Brexit is ultimately a “sideshow” to technology changing society, which he believes will have the biggest impact on Britain in the future.
“Brexit is an important opportunity to reposition ourselves in the world in the coming years and decades,” Rowley said. “Yet Brexit, in my personal view, is ultimately a sideshow for the main event of what politics and politicians need to grapple with: the continuing transformation of our world through technology, automation, and the harnessing of data.
“When we have finally woken up from this long moment of introspection on Brexit, when we recognise that there is life after Brexit, it is unlikely to be the debate about what fundamentally will be a free trade deal over the coming decades which will actually most profoundly change the lives of my constituents.”
Rowley, the MP for North East Derbyshire, worked for a decade in financial services before joining parliament in 2017.
“It’s a real privilege to serve in the Houses of Parliament, but from my short time there, it’s easy to see how disconnected parliament can become from the real world, the real economy, and the real place where change happens,” he told the AltFi audience on Monday.
“My observation over the last two years is how little parliament knows, understands, cares in some places, or is interested in financial services and the work you do. There is clear gap to be bridged between the bulk of MPs and financial services as a whole.”
Rowley said that too many MPs are “stuck in old mindsets” and “think fintech is for young people, playing on their phones and computers, creating these app things that they don’t really understand.”
Rowley sits on the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for fintech and also chairs the APPG for alternative lending.
He told the audience that fintech and alternative lending are “more important than ever” and called on the industry to do more to help MPs understand what the industry is about and why it’s important.
Oscar Williams-Grut covers banking, fintech, and finance for Yahoo Finance UK. Follow him on Twitter at @OscarWGrut.