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Bristol News


Brexit Focus: What's Happening?

It has been almost two years since the 2016 referendum and the UK’s marginal decision to leave the EU and with one year to go till the UK officially leaves the EU, there are still discussions ongoing about what the UK’s relationship will look like with the EU and the rest of the world once the UK leaves in 2019

30 April 2018

Brexit - What’s Happening?

It has been almost two years since the 2016 referendum and the UK’s marginal decision to leave the EU and with one year to go till the UK officially leaves the EU, there are still discussions ongoing about what the UK’s relationship will look like with the EU and the rest of the world once the UK leaves in 2019. What does this mean for Global Mobility and what are the issues that should be at the forefront of anyone moving talent into or out of EMEA?

Following the initial volatility in terms of the financial markets and also with a continued lack of clarity about what the UK’s final position will be once the Brexit formalities have been completed, there was a period of relative stability in the UK which did not see massive changes or decisions being made while the relative parties were formalising their positions and negotiations were ongoing.  As we approach the “deadline” of March 2019 when the UK will leave the EU, those issues are still open and it can be argued, are no closer to resolution. It is this uncertainty which has driven some of the perceived stagnation and lack of progress in the road to Brexit. 

What are the Key Brexit issues?

Some of the major “sticking points” in the Brexit debate include:

  • The UK’s ability to strike up trade deals post-Brexit, whether that includes the UK remaining a member of the EU Customs Union and the eventual model to be adopted. (A “Norway / Switzerland / Canada” style model, reverting to WTO rules for trade in the case of a “No Deal” scenario, or a new bespoke arrangement for the UK which the EU is definitely not in support of are some examples).
  • The status of EU nationals currently resident in the UK, and concern from businesses about how they can continue to attract talent and run their operations which have now become heavily reliant on migrant workers from the EU.)
  • The agreement of a “Transition” phase to allow new arrangements to be implemented.
  • The status of the “passporting” issue for the banking sector and whether this will still be viable for the major banks and other financial institutions with major presences in the UK.
  • The status of the Irish Border and how Brexit will affect a common travel area (currently there is no “hard” border with the Republic of Ireland and this is likely to continue to be a major issue in the months to come).

As one of the major banking hubs in the world, there was a real fear that there would be a large swing of talent mobility out from the UK as organisations looked to protect their interests in the post-Brexit world. (Examples include the major banks perhaps moving their operations to places such as Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Paris who have all been courting businesses as strong potential alternatives to London).

Whilst the initial fear of a “mass exodus” from the UK has not been realised at the time of writing, the prevailing opinion amongst our clients is that whilst they will be implementing Brexit relating planning committees and contingencies, they are still not yet in a position to fully confirm what their arrangements are and it will be inevitable that there will need to be some mobility to European hubs in order to facilitate normal business operations. The scale of this movement is yet to be fully confirmed. 

We have in recent months however, seen more organisations now making decisions about moving their business that will now start to trickle through once the full implications of Brexit become apparent. Some big organisations like Unilever, for example, have started moving their headquarters outside of the UK and some agencies like the European Medicine Agency are also moving to the Netherlands, taking advantage of those favourable business and market conditions in those countries being offered as a result of Brexit.

Be Prepared

Practically speaking, whilst not much has changed or may not change in the next few months to come, Bristol is starting our own Brexit planning contingencies to ensure that we are as prepared as we possibly can be to support clients and their assignees through the changes which may come about through Brexit. From a client perspective, our advice is as follows:

  • Prepare in advance. Assess the status of any EU/UK nationals currently on assignment and continue to be aware of how their status may change once Brexit becomes a reality
  • Engage with trusted partners to make sure they are providing all of the necessary support for potential future moves to / from the UK. Make sure you have all of the required information about the impacts of Brexit particularly in areas where there may be additional issues (for example Household Goods Management / customs clearances, visa and immigration requirements etc)
  • Advise and reassure transferring assignees and make sure that any additional support and infrastructure is available to support any mobility related challenges.
  • Prepare policies for Brexit related contingencies (for example extended stays in temporary housing, delays to the shipping of household goods or additional costs required in terms of preparing additional visa and immigration paperwork.

Bristol Global Mobility & Brexit

Bristol remains committed to ensuring that we continue to support and assist our clients and make Brexit as “hassle free” as possible.

  • Ensuring that our supply chain is ready to assist and support, both for moves into and out of the UK, but also prepared in the event that there is an increase in mobility to cities which may see an increase in volume (for example Paris, Amsterdam or Frankfurt)
  • Developing a programme of client consulting opportunities which will allow clients to network with each other, share information and best practice, and facilitate opportunities for
  • Sharing news, information and the latest updates, and making sure we’re staying on top of the best industry knowledge and making it available and easy to digest.
  • Checking in with clients to make sure their mobility policies are “Brexit-ready”

It’s worth noting that the UK Government and business leaders are keen to stress at every opportunity that the UK remains very much “open for business” and all areas of the economy are going above and beyond the political wrangling of the Brexit discussions to ensure that the UK continues to keep its status as one of the major powers in the world’s economy with a lot to offer potential investors. Much is being made of our continued ability to offer exciting opportunities, not just for European businesses but the opportunities offered as the result of the perceived ability to open the country to wider global opportunities or trade deals.

One possible benefit of this optimistic global outlook is the increase in opportunity from non-EU investors in the event that the trade laws are relaxed. The UK will have to take steps to make itself a more attractive prospect to some overseas investors and look to the opportunities offered by places like India, China and the Gulf. For some this seems to be the natural evolution of a process that is already in progress and this will change the mobility dynamic to some extent, particularly if the UK changes or provides tax incentives to support a more global approach to trade and doing business.

In any event, Bristol is committed and ready to support any of our client’s requirements in the run up to Brexit and we’d be delighted to assist in any way we can with questions, concerns or support.

If you have any questions about the impact of Brexit on your company’s relocation programme, please email



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