Preparing for Brexit - key questions to consider

23 Apr 2019

The government has issued a series of advisory documents in order to provide guidance to small businesses on what to do when the UK leaves the EU. According to the government, the information it has provided will 'help business owners to understand how leaving the EU may affect their business'.

In addition, the government is urging small firms to utilise its EU Exit Tool, which can be found here. Once you have answered the questions, only the documents that are relevant to your business will be shown. Here, we analyse these questions in greater detail.

What does your business or organisation do?

Businesses which provide services to or operate in the EU may need to comply with new rules following Brexit. A business could be affected if it has a branch or branches in the EU; if it operates in a services sector within the EU; if it is planning a merger with an EU company; or if its employees have to travel to EU or European Economic Area (EEA) countries for business. 

Do you sell goods in the UK, import or do business abroad?

Businesses which import or export goods to the EU need to take into account any changes that may affect them at the UK border, including alterations to customs declarations, tariffs and VAT. There are steps firms can take now, in order to prepare. Businesses are urged to apply for a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number, in order to continue trading with the EU post-Brexit.

Do you employ anyone from another European country?

Businesses which employ people who are working in the EU, the EEA or Switzerland may need to consider their social security contributions. Employees may have to make contributions in the UK and the country they are working in at the same time. However, in February 2019, the UK and Ireland signed an international agreement, meaning that employees who are UK or Irish nationals working in Ireland will not be affected.

Do you exchange personal data with another organisation in Europe?

Businesses and organisations which exchange personal data with other organisations in Europe will need to ensure they are prepared for Brexit. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) recently issued guidance on what to do if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. The guidance recommends that firms continue to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules, and keep their privacy policies, information and internal documentation up-to-date.

Do you use or rely on intellectual property (IP) protection?

Businesses which hold intellectual property are warned that they may face changes to their copyright, patents, designs and trademarks following Brexit. When the UK leaves the EU, the UK government will continue to protect all existing European Union Trademarks, Registered Community Designs and Unregistered Community Designs. The government states that this will be done by creating over 1.7 million comparable UK rights, which it will grant to firms automatically and free-of-charge.

Do you get EU or UK government funding?

UK businesses will continue to receive funding over their project's lifetime if they have successfully bid into an EU-funded programme before the UK leaves the EU. However, as each type of funding is different, the government recommends that firms check the guidance relevant to their specific project.

Do you sell to the public sector?

If a business sells goods or services to the UK public sector and the UK leaves the EU without a deal, there will be changes to the way it accesses and responds to UK public sector notices. The government will create a new, UK-specific e-Notification Service, which will replace the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) system, and will be ready when the UK leaves the bloc.

What should I do next?

Once you have answered these questions and have read the relevant government guides, business owners are advised to consider how their firm could be impacted in all Brexit scenarios. Leaving the EU will undoubtedly usher in significant changes across the country, and making sure you are prepared is vital to ensure your business continues to operate smoothly and without issue.

In addition to the government's EU Exit Tool, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has produced an interactive four-page leaflet, which can be found here: BEIS EU Exit Leaflet.

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