Getting On With Brexit in the City That Hates It the Most

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

European connections helped power Bristol’s prosperous economy. Now its vibrant high-tech companies are struggling to plan ahead.

Alasdair Pettigrew, CEO, BOXARR

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Bristol’s Temple Quay Market looks like Britain that wanted to stay in the European Union.

Tech workers in jeans and loose shirts mingle with lawyers in dark suits at the weekly food bazaar, its stalls selling everything from Taiwanese-inspired pork belly bao to Greek lamb wraps and grilled-cheese sandwiches featuring woodland mushrooms. A few steps away, cyclists whiz by on a curving pedestrian bridge over the Avon River, on their way toward the revitalized city center.

Eating lunch in a stone amphitheater carved into the riverbank is a microcosm of that microcosm: a handful of workers from software startup Boxarr. Along with four Brits were two French expats and a recently arrived Greek software developer. Like Temple Quay’s multi-accented street traders, they’re doing their best to get on with it—but being frustrated by some of the obstacles Brexit is throwing up.

“The uncertainty of the whole thing has been damaging,” said Alasdair Pettigrew, the chief executive officer, pausing to take bites from a hefty smoked-brisket sandwich. “And I think that damage, not just for us but the whole economy, will start to manifest itself as we go forward. We would be further on in our growth if the politicians had done a better job.”