Frequently Asked Questions about Brexit for Business

Find answers to the most pressing questions you have about the UK’s exit from the EU and how it could impact your business.

This is an uncertain time for businesses, so we’ve compiled common queries raised by our business customers into a series of FAQs and tried to detail clear answers and links to more information where relevant.

The questions cover general enquiries, business strategy, operations and business practices, supply chain management, financing and investments. If you have a question not covered here, please speak to your Relationship Manager or Business Relationship Team.

We have signed the Governments’ SME Finance Charter to demonstrate our ongoing support to SMEs through Brexit and beyond. Read the charter to find out more.

Not a business? If you’re a personal customer take a look at our personal Brexit FAQs for the most frequently asked questions on our products and services relating to Brexit.

1 General FAQs

1. If a new Withdrawal Agreement is negotiated, how will this impact business?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the UK Government is working to secure a new Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.

While it’s not yet known what trade arrangement the Government is negotiating for, businesses are advised to plan for a range of scenarios, including a no-deal exit.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce has a Business Brexit checklist to Scottish Chambers site, opens in new window advising on areas to consider.

The UK Government has launched a Get Ready for Brexit website where you can input specific information about your business to get a tailored response on how to prepare. Scottish businesses can also get help from Scottish Enterprise’s PrepareforBrexit.scotopens in new window website.

The European Commission’s Preparedness Notices also give information on what will happen in a no-deal scenario as do Technical Notices issued by the UK Government earlier this year.

See the UK Government’s new Brexit help siteopens in new window

See the Scottish Government’s Brexit help siteopens in new window

See PrepareforBrexit.scotopens in new window

See Technical Notices on GOV.UKopens in new window

See the European Commission’s Preparedness Noticesopens in new window

 

2. I don’t trade with Europe, so Brexit won’t affect me, will it?

Even if you don’t trade with the EU, or countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), you may experience the knock-on effects of any impacts on your suppliers and customers. Brexit is also likely to impact your employees if they are from the EU.

To prepare, you may want to review your supply chain and your customer base, identify any risks and take steps, wherever possible, to mitigate them. You might want to make more use of domestic suppliers, for example.

Whatever your current trade arrangements, review your business strategy in light of Brexit and consider any opportunities it presents too – such as international trade beyond Europe.

You may also want to reassure your EU workers that they are welcome and that they will be able to apply for ‘settled status’ under the EU Settlement Scheme. Similar agreements have also been reached with EEA countries Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

To find out more about the opportunities for international trade visit the Bank of Scotland International Trade Portal. Also see the Scottish Government’s guide: Get exporting help and supportopens in new window

To find out if you are ready for Brexit, whatever your business type, you can visit the UK Government’s new interactive website Get Ready for Brexitopens in new window.

See the Scottish Government’s Brexit help siteopens in new window

 

3. How will business travel to Europe be affected by Brexit?

Under Article 45 of the Lisbon Treaty, UK citizens can currently travel and work freely in the EU.

These rights will remain until at least 31 October 2019. They may continue after this date if they are negotiated as part of a new future relationship with the EU. They may also continue under any extension or delay.

In the event of a no-deal exit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated that citizens’ rights will pass into UK law regardless, protecting EU visitors and residents in the UK. However, it is not yet known if the EU and its members will reciprocate this.

Additionally, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, rules around passports are likely to change.

See information on passport rules post-opens in new windowBrexit

 

4. If we go to WTO rules what does this mean for my imports and exports?

A ‘no-deal’ scenario means the UK will cease to have a free trade agreement with the EU, so World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules will apply. These rules are complex, but at their simplest they set out that nations must apply the same tariffs on goods and services to all countries that they trade with under WTO rules.

For importers and exports, this could mean costs will go up as imports and exports to the EU will no longer be tariff-free.

However, the UK could choose to lower tariffs or get rid of them altogether, which could present opportunities for businesses. The UK could also enter into agreements that give developing countries preferential access to our markets. Again, this could open up opportunities.

Another issue to consider is non-tariff barriers – these are things like safety regulations and product standards. If the UK and the EU can’t agree a system for recognising product standards, this is likely to mean more checks at the border.

Scottish Enterprise has export advisers who can help your business grow in EU markets and beyond. They can also help you with your Brexit planning exporting questionsopens in new window.

 

5. What effect will Brexit have on cards and payments?

Brexit would have no immediate effect on cards and other payments between the UK and the EU. Even in a ‘no-deal scenario’ the European Payments Council (EPC) has agreed that UK payments service providers can continue to participate in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA).

The EPC will review the continued participation of the UK in the scheme on a regular basis but there are no foreseen issues.

You can get help to manage your payments efficiently with  Bank of Scotland Payment Services.

 

6. How will regulation change in a post-Brexit Britain?

The vast majority of existing EU laws and regulations will become UK laws and regulations after Brexit, under the EU Withdrawal Act.

The longer-term future of UK laws and regulation is not clear, however. The Act makes provision to amend, repeal or remove laws as necessary. And it is possible that some rules, such as those on Free Movement, will change under a renegotiated future relationship.

Passporting, the EU system for banks and financial services companies, will also be affected by Brexit. Passporting enables those who are authorised in any EU or EEA state to trade freely in any other state with minimal additional authorisation. These passports are the foundation of the EU single market for financial services. Passports will no longer automatically apply to UK-authorised firms once the UK is outside the EU and the EEA.

 

7. Will I still have access to the same banking products and services after Brexit?

The majority of Bank of Scotland Commercial customers will see no changes to their current products and services after Brexit.

For a small number of clients, certain products may need to be withdrawn and replaced with alternatives or you may need to find alternative providers. For example, if your business is registered or domiciled overseas. If you are affected by any changes related to Brexit, we will have already contacted you where appropriate.

If you have any concerns, you can speak to your Relationship Manager or Business Relationship team.

 

8. Will the same GDPR regulations still apply post Brexit?

Yes, they will. The General Data Protection Regulation, which came into force in May 2018, covers companies that have EU citizens as customers. Therefore, it will still apply when the UK is no longer a member of the EU.

You can find out more information on the flow of data in the event of a no-deal Brexit from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

2 Business Practices and sectors


1. Which sectors are most likely to be affected by Brexit? And will the impact on the service sector be different from that on manufacturers?

Businesses that trade heavily in goods or services with the EU, that are heavily regulated, or that employ substantial numbers of staff from the EU are likely to feel the most significant impact from Brexit.

These are thought to include agriculture, financial services, food and drink, automotive, pharmaceuticals and chemical engineering - however any impact will depend on an organisation’s own circumstances.

Uncertainties around Brexit have also been a factor in the currently de-valued pound. This could make Scotland’s (and the rest of the UK’s) products and services more competitive abroad, and offer potential opportunities for international trade.

The UK Government has launched a Get Ready for Brexit website, which covers most sectors. You can input specific information about your business to get a tailored response on how to prepare.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce also has a Brexit preparation checklist and Risk Register which may help. Scottish Enterprise’s PrepareforBrexit.scot website has a free self-assessment tool to help you understand potential impacts on your business.

See the UK Government’s new Brexit help siteopens in a new window

See the Scottish Government’s Brexit help siteopens in a new window

See PrepareforBrexit.scot’s step-by-step guide and help siteopens in a new window

See the Scottish Chambers of Commerce’s Brexit help siteopens in a new window

See the British Chambers of Commerce sector checklistsopens in a new window

Understand tariffs and how they workopens in a new window

 

2. What is the government doing to help businesses prepare for Brexit?

The UK Government has already published guidance for businesses on how to prepare for Brexit in the event of a no-deal scenario.

In August 2018, it began releasing a series of technical notices that set out detailed advice on a wide range of topics aimed at different industries and sectors. They’re designed to help businesses make informed decisions.

The documents cover areas such as farming, fishing, seafaring and medicines, and provide important information on changes to business regulations if there’s no deal.

More broadly, they include implications for companies that import and export and what will happen if the free circulation of goods between the UK and EU ends.

It is likely these will be updated as the deadline approaches, so businesses are advised to check back regularly for further notices.

In addition, the UK Government has launched a Get Ready for Brexit website where you can input specific information about your business to get a tailored response on how to prepare.

The Department of Trade and Industry is also running a series of live events around the country to help exporters to prepare.  The workshops will cover the various potential impacts of Brexit – including supply chains, regulations and contracts, and tariffs. Each attendee will receive a personalised plan of action.

www.prepareforbrexit.scot/opens in a new window has a series of business events, workshops and webinars aimed at different sectors and different issues.

See the UK Government’s new Brexit help siteopens in a new window

See the Scottish Government’s Brexit help siteopens in a new window

See technical notices at GOV.UKopens in a new window

See PrepareforBrexit.scot’s events and webinarsopens in a new window

 

3. What are technical notices and how can they help my business prepare for Brexit?

Technical notices are Brexit-related documents published by the UK Government. They set out, in considerable detail, how leaving the UK without a deal would impact different issues and business sectors.

The documents cover many UK business sectors and should be of use to businesses in planning for no-deal scenarios. From importing to exporting and meeting regulations, there is advice and guidance if there is no Brexit deal.

It is likely these will be updated, so businesses are advised to check back regularly for further notices.

In addition, the Government has launched a Get Ready for Brexit website where you can input specific information about your business to get a tailored response on how to prepare.

See the Government’s new Brexitopens in a new window help site

See technical notices at GOV.UKopens in a new window

Find out about the Brexit events for exportersopens in a new window

 

4. What is a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification number and will I have to register for one?

An Economic Operator Registration and Identification, or EORI, number is a unique ID code required by businesses that trade goods with countries outside the EU.

In the UK, an EORI number is allocated to an importer and exporter by HMRC. It provides information to customs authorities as part of EU security measures on shipments.

Under a no-deal Brexit, UK businesses shipping goods to or from the EU would need to follow the same customs procedures as currently apply when trading with a country outside the EU. That means you would need to register for an EORI number.

You can apply online at https://www.gov.uk/eori

 

5. How will employment rules change for UK-based EU citizens after Brexit?

Around 3.6 million non-UK EU nationals live in the UK. There were around 209,000 EU citizens living in Scotland in 2016.  Those already working in the UK can apply for ‘settled status’ to remain indefinitely if they’ve been here for five years.

Those who have been in the UK for less than five years can apply for pre-settled status, and qualify for full settled status once they’ve lived in the UK for five years.

The deadline for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme is 30 June 2021.

These rights are likely to apply in the event of a no-deal exit, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he intends to pass citizens’ rights into UK law, even if there is no agreement reached with the EU.

However, if there is a no-deal exit, you will need to have been living in the UK before it leaves the EU in order to apply, and the deadline in that case is currently 31 December 2020.

For anyone who arrives after the UK leaves the EU, there will be a new immigration system in place.

After Brexit, the Migration Advisory Committee has recommended that the UK’s current points-based system for immigration should be extended to EU migrants, to give more skilled workers more permits.

If you currently employ EU workers, you should consider how the new migration rules are likely to affect your business.

For more information see: EU citizens living in Scotland after Brexitopens in a new window and the EU Settlement Scheme: employer toolkitopens in a new window

 

6. Is it too late to start planning for Brexit now? And where should I start?

It is not too late to plan for Brexit. The Government is urging all businesses to Get Ready for Brexit and plan for a no-deal scenario as soon as possible.

The first step is to consider how exposed you are to any risks associated with Brexit. Look at the possible impact on your supply chain, exports, customers and customer demand, stakeholders and workforce. At the same time, explore any opportunities Brexit presents, including to further trade with countries outside of the EU.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce has put together a Prepare for Brexit checklist and Risk Registeropens in a new window highlighting key areas to consider, including future staffing requirements and any potential delays at borders. This can help you put in place measures to mitigate the risks, ensuring you have the skills needed, the correct customs documentation and provisions to cope with currency volatility.

The UK Government has launched a Get Ready for Brexit website where you can input specific information about your business to get a tailored response on how to prepare.

The Scottish Government is also offering grants of between £2,000 and £4,000 to help small to medium-sized enterprises in Scotland to help you with planning and manage a variety of Brexit impacts.

See the UK Government’s new Brexit help siteopens in a new window

See the Scottish Government’s Brexit help siteopens in a new window

See details of Brexit Support Grants on the PrepareforBrexit.scotopens in a new window website

 

7. Who do I need on a business task force to plan for Brexit?

In the same way you would plan for a major incident or takeover, you should consider establishing a core team to manage your Brexit strategy.

According to the CBI, 82% of large businesses – and a third of firms overall – have set up an internal Brexit task force or steering group to project-manage preparations.

To be most effective, your task force should be made up of representatives from key functions across your business, not just senior management. This includes people who deal with the supply chain, procurement, marketing, sales, governance, HR and financial planning.

Smaller companies that don’t have as many resources may wish to bring on board experts from legal firms and business associations to help them gain a greater understanding of what Brexit means for them.

 

8. Should I plan for Brexit under a deal or for a no-deal scenario?

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outlined a proposed withdrawal deal to the EU, it is not yet known if an agreement can be reached. The deal may be altered further before it is ratified, it may be replaced by an alternative deal, or the UK may leave the EU with no deal in place.

This presents a range of different scenarios to plan for.

The UK Government advises planning for a no-deal Brexit. They have a website, Get Ready for Brexit, giving detailed information on what this would mean for businesses in all sectors.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce also has a Business Brexit checklist and Risk Register advising on areas to consider. The Government’s Technical Notices and the European Commission’s Preparedness Notices give information on what will happen in a no-deal scenario.

See the UK Government’s new Brexit help siteopens in a new window

See the Scottish Government’s Brexit help siteopens in a new window

See Technical Notices on GOV.UKopens in a new window

See the European Commission’s Preparedness Noticesopens in a new window

 

9. What are the HR and employee issues I need to plan and prepare for?

It’s unlikely that there will be immediate changes to employment law as a result of Brexit. Much of the regulation is enshrined in domestic law, and powers from EU Directives have been brought under UK law in the EU Withdrawal Act.

However, businesses that employ EU nationals will need to understand the implications of Brexit for workers.

EU workers who are resident in the UK can apply for ‘settled status’ after five years under the EU Settlement Scheme or ‘pre-settled status’ beforehand. The Scottish Government has produced a toolkit that employers can use to communicate the scheme to employees.

See the EU Settlement Scheme Employer Toolkit on GOV.SCOTopens in a new windowopens in a new window

See advice for EU citizens living in Scotland after Brexitopens in a new window

 

10. My business is with the public sector. What impact is Brexit likely to have on my market?

Public procurement rules will change following Brexit.

It’s possible that the market will be opened up to other countries, which may affect businesses in this country, but in that circumstance UK businesses too may have opportunities to bid for public contacts further afield.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Government is likely to urgently implement UK-wide frameworks.

According to Deloitte, public sector bodies are likely to be affected by any tariffs on goods in the same way as private sector bodies.

Another impact they are likely to feel is in staffing – there has already been a steep decline in EU applications for nursing positions, for example. These potential issues may have knock-on effects for companies that do business with the public sector.

3 Business Strategy

1. Which export markets are most likely to look favourably on the UK after Brexit?

The EU and countries with which the EU has Free Trade Agreements currently account for 56% of UK exports. However, exports to the US have risen by more than 26% between 2011 and 2016.

Theresa May announced that the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreement with the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and Mozambique, would be carried over after Brexit. That represents about £2.4bn worth of exports.

Other countries that may offer export opportunities for the UK post-Brexit include the English-speaking nations - like Canada and Australia - and the Middle East.

Looking for exporting opportunities? See the Bank of Scotland International Trade portal

See the Scottish Government guide: Get exporting help and support

 

2. What can I do to protect my business from Brexit?

The first step you may want to take – if you haven’t already done so – is to carry out a Brexit risk assessment to see if your business has any vulnerabilities. This may also uncover opportunities for your business when the UK leaves the EU.

You might want to look at how different scenarios would impact your business – reverting to World Trade Organisation rules in a no-deal scenario, delays in the supply chain, and issues with recruitment, for example.

Areas to look at include impacts on importing and exporting, your supply chain, taxation, regulation, and your employees.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce has a Business Brexit checklist and Risks Registeropens in new window showing areas to consider.

You can then do whatever is possible to mitigate risks: for example, ensuring all your customs documentation is in order, making adjustments to your supply chain, and doing what you can to retain your EU employees.

Scottish Enterprise has launched the PrepareforBrexit.scot website where you can input specific information about your business to get a tailored response on how to prepare. You may also be able to get a grant to help you with planning.

See the UK Government’s new Brexit help siteopens in new window

See the Scottish Government’s Brexit help siteopens in new window

See the PrepareforBrexit.scot websiteopens in new window

 

3. What is the Bank of England forecasting will be the likely impact of Brexit?

The Bank of England revised its analysis on the consequences of a no-deal Brexit in early September 2019.

Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, said the new analysis showed a 5.5% reduction in GDP over the next 5 years, a rise in the unemployment rate to 7% over the same period, and inflation peaking at 5.25%. Previous analysis in November 2018 modelled an 8% GDP reduction, unemployment at 7.5% and inflation at 6.5%.

Mr Carney said the change in forecast was ‘the result of the preparations for no deal that have been put in place since November [2018]’.

In previous speeches on Brexit, he has made clear that the Bank of England is prepared for all outcomes and will work to minimise any rise in inflation.

“The Monetary Policy Committee will respond to any persistent change in the outlook to bring inflation sustainably back to the 2% target while doing what it can to support jobs and activity.”

 

4. The European Regional Development Fund has invested heavily in our region, what is going to happen now?

If it forms part of a renegotiated withdrawal deal between the UK and EU, the UK could continue to take part in European Regional Development Programmes until they end in 2023.

If there is a no-deal exit, UK organisations will no longer be able to access EU funding for European Regional Development Fund projects. However, before the recent change of leadership, the UK Government had said it would guarantee these projects, including those funded under the 2014-2020 programme.

4 Supply Chain

1. How can I make sure my supply chain is ready for Brexit?

It is difficult to predict how Brexit will impact supply chains, so you can’t ensure you are 100% ready. However, there are some sensible steps you can take.

First, you should conduct a thorough review of your supply chain in order to get a full understanding of your network and where any potential risks lie. For example, if your supply chain crosses the EU-UK border, what will happen if there are delays in the event of a no-deal exit?

You can then test for risks in different Brexit scenarios and identify mitigating actions – such as working with different suppliers, or building in contingencies for any delays.

 

2. How can I minimise delays when supplying goods post-Brexit?

Delays at the UK-EU border are felt to be one of the biggest potential difficulties of a no-deal Brexit. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, you will need to follow different customs controls when exporting to Europe to the ones you currently use.

These include registering for a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number.

You may also need to get an export licence or provide supporting documents to export certain types of goods from the UK.

For detailed information on changes at the UK border, see the UK Government’s Partnership Packopens in new window

 

3. Will I have to change my packaging after Brexit?

Like many post-Brexit issues, it depends on any future relationship agreed and what business sector you’re in. For example, the Government has said that even if there is no deal, EU-based food labelling will more or less be rolled over, although there may need to be changes in labelling related to the origin of food.

There are also plans to set up new geographical indication (GI) schemes with a new UK logo for products like Shetland lamb and Whitstable oysters, regardless of whether there’s a deal agreed or not. Scotch Whisky is currently the most significant UK product registered as a GI, with over £4bn worth of exports a year. Scottish Farmed Salmon, Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb also are included in the current EU GI scheme.

If you wish to apply for an EU registration after Brexit you will need to go through a separate EU application process in addition to applying to the new UK scheme under the proposed rules, yet to be confirmed.

However, the pharmaceutical industry may be more impacted in a no-deal scenario, with new packaging required if drug makers have to reapply for a marketing authorisation. 


4. Will my business still have to meet EU safety standards for goods post-Brexit?

To be sold on the EU market, many products have to meet safety standards set out in EU regulations. The CE mark is used on certain goods to show that they meet these standards.

As part of negotiations around a future trade deal, the UK may adopt a ‘common rulebook’ covering standards for goods within the EU, but this is not certain.

If there is no deal, products tested for conformity with EU standards by a UK body may not automatically be recognised in the EU – so they may have to be retested in the EU. Obviously, this would involve time and cost.

See the Government’s technical notice on regulated goods in the light of no dealopens in new window.

 

5 Finance and Investments
 

1. What is likely to happen to sterling and how can I manage my financial risk?

The pound fell to its lowest level in over 30 years after the Brexit referendum, and has fallen 12% against the euro and 5% against the US dollar since just before the vote. It may recover, but economists forecast a sharp fall if there is a hard Brexit.

If you are importing or exporting, you might want to consider hedging in order to manage currency risk. You may also want to do some contingency planning around a potential rise in the cost of importing raw materials, if sterling falls further.

Another consideration is what currency you are paid in. If you are exporting, you could try to agree prices in advance to protect yourself from any further volatility.

Other financial risks to consider, and plan for as far as possible, include rises in the costs of making payments.

To discuss your business needs, speak to your Bank of Scotland Bank Relationship Manager or Business Relationship Team.

 

2. Is now a good time to invest in my business despite the uncertainty around Brexit?

Rather than cancelling investment plans because of uncertainty, you may want to consider them in the light of the changes Brexit could bring about. What are your customers’ needs likely to be post-Brexit? Will Brexit offer you opportunities to explore new markets – by exporting, for example?

Our International Trade Portal can help you explore further.

 

3. Should we increase our reserves/cash position ahead of Brexit because of all the uncertainty?

Consider whether it’s reasonable to expect trade to be affected by Brexit in the short term. If your business is often immediately influenced by consumer confidence, if you trade significantly with the EU currently, or if you rely on supplies from the EU which may be delayed, then it is reasonable to expect some disruption.

Working to improve your cash position will give you some resilience to short-term shocks, but also potentially allow you to invest in any new opportunities – such as to establish an alternative supply chain, or to step up trade with countries outside of the EU.

This could be a good opportunity to review your cash flow as part of a wider financial health check. Even during periods of so-called stability, the Federation of Small Businesses opens in new window advises holding cash reserves that would allow your business to operate for three months

 

4. What will be the likely impact of Brexit on cross-border mergers and acquisitions for businesses?

Levels of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity are difficult to predict. On the one hand, possible divergence between the UK and the EU around anti-trust laws, potentially separate competition supervisory bodies to be cleared, and generally volatile markets, are all likely to decrease activity.

However, currency fluctuations (notably a weaker pound) and the desire by businesses to establish new geographical bases could see a rise in tactical M&A activity. Share price volatility can also trigger opportunities for some aggressive bids.

Due diligence is expected to take longer post Brexit, and if an agreement cannot be reached between the UK and the EU on aligning competition regulation and anti-trust legislation, mergers and acquisitions could be subject to parallel processes.

Corporate restructuring within a group of companies that crosses borders is expected to become more complex too.

The UK Government and the House of Lords have created publications in the area of competition regulation and State Aid post Brexitopens in new window.

The UK Government has also published a paper on the anti-trust role of the Competition and Markets Authority in the event of a no-deal Brexitopens in new window

 

5. What support is available from Bank of Scotland to help businesses with Brexit?

You can talk to your Relationship Manager or Business Relationship Team for support around financial planning.

For support widening trade beyond the EU you can make use of a range of resources on our International Trade Portal.

 

While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information provided is correct, no liability is accepted by Bank of Scotland for any loss or damage caused to any person relying on any statement or omission. This is for information only and should not be relied upon as offering advice for any set of circumstances.  Specific advice should always be sought in each instance.