Facebook to increase its UK workforce by almost 50%

London - Facebook is to hire 800 new staff in London, expanding its UK headquarters despite coming under increasing scrutiny from the country’s lawmakers.

The new hires - predominately in engineering roles and to be recruited over the next year - will bring the number of staff working for Facebook in the UK to 2 300. The social media company will also offer space in its new office to UK-based startups as part of an accelerator program, the company said on Monday.

Facebook’s expansion comes at a time when Britain is so alarmed by the extent and scale of Russian interference in UK politics via social media networks that its lawmakers are getting ready to interrogate Silicon Valley giants - including Facebook and Twitter - in Washington.

Facebook joins a number of large tech companies doubling down on their presence in London, despite the ongoing uncertainty about the UK’s pending exit from the European Union.

"It’s a sign of confidence in our country that innovative companies like Facebook invest here," UK Chancellor Philip Hammond said in a statement.

London will be Facebook’s largest engineering hub outside the US, according the statement.

The UK is currently lobbying hard for tech talent. The government plans to double the number of visas available to highly skilled workers, including technology-savvy candidates.

Facebook, Snap and Google all announced plans to increase hiring in the UK, while Apple is leasing about 500 000 square-feet of office space at Battersea Power Station on the south bank of London’s River Thames.

Among European countries, the UK was the most pessimistic about the future of the European technology industry, according to a report last week from London-based venture capital firm Atomico, with 18% of respondents - which included thousands of founders and investors - saying they were less optimistic than they were a year earlier.

Over the last 12 months it’s also become harder for British startups to raise new funding, according to 32% of founders questioned.

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