Whether you voted Leave, Remain, or not at all, business owners need to prepare for the UK leaving the EU in March 2019, either with a withdrawal agreement or the extremely risky position of ‘no deal’.
As a technology business, there are several areas which concern me.
Professional indemnity insurance
I currently have a professional indemnity policy which covers me should I be sued by a client over the work I’ve done. The wording of this policy states that I cannot do any work for clients based outside of the EU, which will include the UK after Brexit. In addition, one of the insurers backing my policy is based in Germany, and it’s not clear whether their ability to underwrite UK policies will cease in March – currently they enter the UK market using a ‘passport’ which allows financial services firms in one member state to operate in other member states without having to establish a separate subsidiary.
At the time of writing, my insurer has not updated their policy wording, nor have they clarified whether I will be covered post-Brexit. There isn’t much I can do about this other than to wait and add a diary entry to arrange alternative cover if the situation hasn’t been sorted by February 2019.
At the moment, all of my clients are based in the UK, but that may change. Currently I can work for clients outside the UK but inside the EU without any problems, however it’s not clear what would happen if I have an arrangement entered into pre-Brexit but some of the work is to be completed post-Brexit. There’s still no clarity on this, even though I would effectively be operating as an exporter of services and therefore bringing money into the UK and helping improve our balance of payments.
Many improvements to the UK banking system, such as Faster Payments, have come as a result of EU legislation. The existing improvements are likely to stay, as they have been transposed in UK legislation, but it’s not clear whether the terms and conditions of my business account will allow me to accept payments from clients within the EU but outside the UK after Brexit. Compensation limits if a bank goes bust are also currently set at an EU level, and I don’t know whether those will also change.
.eu domain names
It is a requirement of registration that registrants have a presence in the EU for the duration of their registration. All UK businesses with .eu domains will have their registrations cancelled as soon as the UK leaves, and this has been confirmed by the EU.
If you have a .eu domain but won’t have a presence in the EU after Brexit, it may be a good idea to start migrating everything to a .uk, .com or other top level domain now, especially as it will take time for search engines to update their indexes.
Of course, many of the above issues might be mitigated by any withdrawal agreement, e.g. the EU might agree to allow UK firms to register .eu domain names. The problem is that we are seven months away from the withdrawal date and businesses still don’t know what is going to happen, and it’s hard to plan for a situation which could range from ‘no deal’ to revoking the article 50 notification and staying in the EU under our existing membership agreement.