Freshfields – The possibility of Britain leaving the EU presents a host of questions.
What will David Cameron’s renegotiation produce? Will the UK vote to stay in the EU? If the decision is to leave, what would a future UK/EU relationship look like? What exit terms would be negotiated and how long would the negotiation take? How much uncertainty would there be for business between a vote to leave and the conclusion of an exit negotiation?
Even some of the most enthusiastic UK Eurosceptics want to stay in the EU single market, and it is likely that the rest of the EU would, in principle, want that as well. But how far would that require the UK to comply with EU rules, and what influence would the UK have in framing those rules? The EU’s current relationships with countries like Norway, Switzerland, South Korea and Turkey provide different ways of structuring this – we describe the key features below. Perhaps none of these relationships quite matches what the UK would be looking for, and they may not be on offer anyway. If something different is needed, how would that be framed?
Would the UK be better off pursuing its own trade policy outside the EU, where it would be free to negotiate its own free trade agreements with third countries? Or would it be better inside the EU, where it would benefit from EU agreements such as the potentially huge Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement being negotiated with the US?
These uncertainties have important implications for the present. Is it safe to assume my business would continue as normal following a Brexit? Events could move quite quickly following a no vote in the referendum and companies need to be prepared to meet basic business continuity challenges. Is there anything I can do now to prepare for that possibility? How would my competitors, customers and suppliers be affected? And are there implications now for how I develop my business, for strategic planning and investment?
At Freshfields we are working with our clients to develop a better understanding of these questions – to begin to reduce the uncertainties, to quantify and assess what a Brexit might mean for them and to help them think through their response. Some of our clients have been working on this for a while. For these companies a lot of what we present here will already be familiar. Others are just beginning.
This webpage aims to give a flavour of the issues involved, from hiring and deploying staff, through to your tax liability, the impact on imports and exports and protection of copyright and patents.
We will be beginning to map out some answers over the next few months, and updating these pages as we do.