Wed Mar 29 2017
The UK has now formally committed to leaving the EU and is officially heading towards the exit door. But what does that mean for your business?
The government has triggered Article 50, kicking off the Brexit process and the negotiations that will determine the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
But businesses – along with everybody else – are still in the dark about what that future looks like. To say that there’s a lot to be discussed is something of an understatement.
Yet in the nine months since the UK voted to leave the EU, a clearer picture has started to emerge. Here’s what we know so far about some of the most important aspects that could affect your business.
There was much discussion following the leave vote as to whether the UK would try to negotiate a deal based on the models some other non-EU countries have, such as Norway and Switzerland.
However, Theresa May scotched those notions when she said the UK would aim for a “red, white and blue” Brexit1. She wants a bespoke deal, and one that takes the UK’s position as a paid-up signatory to current EU regulations as a starting point.
“The focus will not be about removing existing barriers or questioning certain protections but about ensuring new barriers do not arise,” the government’s Brexit white paper says.2
How the UK trades with the EU post-Brexit is naturally one of the biggest areas of interest for business.
The UK is currently part of the single market, and benefits from free movement of goods and services across the EU. But the government has said it will not be seeking membership of the single market in its negotiations2, raising some questions about possible import and export tariffs after Brexit.
These questions still remain, although we do know that the government hopes to agree a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement and a new customs agreement with the EU.2
There’s also the matter of possible new trade deals with non-EU countries.
Much has been made of the UK’s desire to strike its own agreements with countries such as the US and India, and it’s clear that the government’s longer-term position involves pulling a number of levers to boost trade in key global markets.
Immigration is another major focus area for businesses, not least because many companies employ EU nationals and hope to continue doing so in the future.
The good news for those businesses is that EU nationals that have been in the UK for five years have an automatic right to stay2.
For those that haven’t been in the UK that long, the picture isn’t as clear. The government says it hopes to secure their status, but wants UK citizens living in the EU to get the same treatment as part of the deal.
Meanwhile, post-Brexit immigration from the EU is highly likely to have some restrictions placed on it. This could affect access to EU workers, although the government says it “will always want immigration, including from EU countries, and especially high-skilled immigration”2.
The triggering of Article 50 started a two-year countdown. After then, the UK will cease to be a member of the EU. That period can be extended though if all EU countries agree.
“We don’t know what will have been agreed by the end but keep your ear to the ground,” says Sharon. “Being prepared for any eventuality is key but don’t get hamstrung by every twist and turn in the talks. As ever, the most important thing is to run your business as effectively as you can.”