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A “hard” Brexit is right around the corner. What can technology firms do to soften the blow? 

The suggestion of Britain’s new government that it will welcome a “no-deal” Brexit is likely more than just a negotiating tactic, and every passing day makes the possibility of the UK completely leaving all EU agreements more likely. It’s a scenario that the UK’s tech companies fear, but fortunately there are some moves that savvy tech companies can make to prepare for the worst.

Keep it moving

The British tech scene is overwhelmingly focused on software as opposed to hardware, and Brexit optimists were hopeful that this would alleviate some of the potential issues if no customs union is agreed to with the EU. Unfortunately, that’s looking increasingly unlikely. Moving goods across the British border is likely to pose a problem for tech companies in general and startups in particular. In anticipation, tech companies are stockpiling in order to guarantee supplies of spare parts and other business-critical items. However, it’s a challenge for any company to keep track of everything they might potentially need to bring into the country quickly, and it’s difficult to plan for sudden checks at the border. That’s why it’s recommended that businesses prepare for the worst and retain a good customs agent who can swiftly and skillfully manage the process of making customs declarations.

Know your people

One big elephant in the room when it comes to Brexit and tech is talent and the potential lack of access to it. As of this writing, a third of London’s tech workers are from outside the UK, and 20% of those are from the EU. “Talent is a perennial issue for the UK tech scene,” explains Russ Shaw, founder of London Tech Advocates. “There simply aren’t enough people in London with the skills to fulfill the potential here.” Pre-Brexit, the free movement of people between the 27 EU states made relocation a snap, but that’s all due to stop on October 31. In order to stop EU talent from walking out the door, tech companies have been encouraged to keep track of where their workers come from and make sure they comply fully with immigration laws.

Let the data flow

In the event of a hard Brexit, there is massive uncertainty concerning the transfer of data – the UK has stated that transfers of data from the UK to EU will be legal, but the situation is considerably less clear regarding data transfers from the EU to the UK. Businesses transferring data from Europe to Britain could quickly find themselves GDPR violators, since the legal basis for transfers would no longer exist if the UK leaves with no deal. On top of that, there’s still no answer to the question of how data protection authorities across Europe would see EU-to-UK data flows – it’s hoped that they won’t be a regulatory priority, but that may well turn out to be wishful thinking. Accordingly, the British government suggests continuing to comply with GDPR rules, reviewing data flows from and into the UK, reviewing and updating any privacy information that your company holds, and keeping the right people in your organization constantly aware of these issues.

If all else fails…

There’s always the door – 40% of British tech companies are at least considering relocating to the EU post-Brexit. For small to medium-sized tech companies worried about decreased investment, difficulty in attracting talent, and a lack of access to European technology programs, it’s not as extreme a move as it may seem – it’s worth remembering that the industry opposed Brexit by a 70-30 margin, and the disconnect between the British government and the leaders of its technology sector is likely to get worse before it gets better.

At Argos Multilingual, we’re experts at guiding our customers through complex regulatory changes. For more information about how we can help you stay compliant in the EU, get in touch with us.

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