Life as an entrepreneur means that you always have to know your next step. You have to know where your business is going, what your plans for the future are, and what you can do to ensure your company gets there.
For most entrepreneurs, the biggest step of all is an overseas expansion. This is a sign that your business has truly “made it”; you have been able to go global, capture a new marketplace, and your profits will boom as a result.
You have the whole world to choose from, but many American businesses have always sought to expand into the United Kingdom. It’s easy to see why this might be. The UK and the US are rather similar; the cultures tend to feed into one another, and there’s the old established “special relationship”…
Then Brexit Happened
In June of 2017, the UK threw the entire global financial picture into chaos when 52% of the electorate voted to withdraw from the European Union.
This was a political bombshell, made all the worse by the fact no one was expecting it. Polls had indicated that the “remain” vote would win, and potentially even win comfortably. The UK has been part of the EU for nearly 50 years, but as of March 2019, will withdraw from the world’s largest trading bloc.
So what does this mean for American businesses who may want to expand into the UK?
In Truth: Not Much
When the UK leaves the EU, it will need to replace its current trade agreements with newly-negotiated deals. Both the UK and the US leaders have spoken about the need for a trade deal between the two countries, which will hopefully be concluded relatively quickly. So if you just want to expand your business without relocating into the UK, then your plans will likely be able to proceed as normal.
However, if you wanted to relocate to set up offices in the UK, then things might be different. No one is entirely sure how the new visa or immigration process is going to work. A personal move will be difficult, both in terms of the paperwork, and the logistics. It’s tough enough to think about a transatlantic move in simple times, when your biggest issue is finding the right heavy item courier to help transport office furniture. It’s incredibly daunting to consider the move when you’re also going to be juggling new immigration systems and wondering how the economic uncertainty will impact your finances.
So Should You Expand Your Company Into The UK?
If you are just planning to ship products to the UK, then proceed as you would– Brexit shouldn’t make too much difference.
If you are planning on setting up an office, or moving to the UK to oversee the expansion, then it might be best to wait for awhile. Negotiations for the UK’s EU withdrawal have only just begun (and aren’t going particularly well), so patience is needed.
The UK is still a viable marketplace, and one worthy of consideration, but the turmoil of Brexit means you should proceed with caution for the time being.