Preparing for Brexit

At the time of press, the future relationship between the EU and the UK remains unclear and the lack of clarity is driving a mixed response across Europe. A recent business survey demonstrates a significant level of concern for what Brexit is going to look like. Phil Smith, practice leader for compensation services at Crown World Mobility, explores the findings.

group of people discussing
Relocate Magazine Autumn Issue 2018
This article is taken from the latest issue of Relocate magazine, sponsored by AKA.
– the must read for HR, global managers and relocation professionals.

Ever since the UK public voted in a referendum to leave the EU most of the focus has been on what it means to Britain, its economy and its political future. But what about what it means to the EU as a whole? And how should international businesses be preparing for it?The Brexit Crown World Mobility survey sought to answer these questions by polling 2,505 business professionals in Germany, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands and 1,013 in the UK. All the respondents work in companies which offer international assignments – the very people whose working lives could be affected most by Brexit.
Related articles
 The responses from those previously unheard voices are significant because they could help international businesses and global mobility managers prepare a strategy to cope with the changes ahead.Here were some of the key statistics: 
  • 56% of people in the UK say Brexit will be bad for the EU – with 57% in Germany agreeing, along with 51% in the Netherlands and 55% in Ireland
  • 54% of people in the UK say international businesses will be negatively impacted by Brexit
  • 57% of people in Germany say international businesses will be negatively impacted by Brexit, whilst 17% say it will be positively impacted
  • 48% of people in the Netherlands say international businesses will be negatively impacted by Brexit, whilst 27% say it will be positively impacted
  • 65% of people in Ireland say international businesses will be negatively impacted by Brexit, whilst 18% say it will be positively impacted

What are businesses doing to prepare for Brexit?

The top answers were changing the budget to cope with extra costs and training local staff to avoid the need for employees from the UK, which is telling.Global mobility programmes are already evolving, influenced by cultural, political and technological change as well as an ever-shifting security picture. Now they may need to evolve again as the UK’s relationship with the world changes. Britain has always been one of the most popular destinations for international assignments and has a strong culture, too, of exporting its own talent to work abroad. But fears from Europeans about the cost and complications around global mobility cannot be ignored.

How to deal with Brexit? Advice for companies

It’s a tough one when the outcome is so unclear and any details of the trading relationship are still currently being debated. However, there are some actions businesses can take.
  • Review all the expatriate positions currently hosted in the UK and consider what contingency plans can be put in place
  • Review UK assignment end dates and work with the business to plan ahead and either replace or relocate roles
  • Plan for the possibility of a reduced number of expats coming to the UK in future.
  • Consider that this could mean an increase in short term assignments and business travellers instead
  • Prepare for a lot more focus on immigration – global mobility teams should upskill in this area so that they can advise their businesses accordingly
Ultimately, the effect of Brexit on Europe will depend of the final model that is agreed – but that doesn’t mean we cannot make plans.
More articles from the Autumn issue of Relocate magazine:
Given that the UK will remain a key market and destination for most European countries – the results of the survey certainly show that to be the case - there will still be a desire to work with the UK in future.A hard Brexit would make maintaining ongoing relations more difficult but businesses will always find an opportunity to trade if one exists. That doesn’t mean, of course, that everything will look the same. Global mobility is already reacting to new technology, political change, social change and even to an increased threat of terrorism across the world – so Brexit is likely to push it in new directions too.Some of the changes we could see include: 
  • A brain-drain in the UK: if the country’s skilled workforce seeks permanent relocation rather than temporary assignments
  • Low-cost assignments: the harder and more expensive it is to relocate employees; the more organisations will question the value of expensive moves. So, expect them to look for ways to cut costs. This could mean short-term moves, permanent moves or so-called ‘backpack’ moves in which assignees make most of the arrangements themselves
  • The rise of talent planning: red tape and increased costs could see businesses place more emphasis on talent planning - ensuring that the right people go on assignment at the right times in their career
  • Training: expect a new focus on developing local talent, in the UK and in Europe. Crown World Mobility Brexit Survey stats show many businesses have already started this process or at the very least included it in their next budget
These changes are significant, but few are driven only by Brexit. There have been protectionist policies in the US and Australia in the last year and the immigration environment changes on almost a weekly basis – and global mobility has reacted and evolved every time.

The trend in the industry is still towards international experience and development, not least because younger generations have a desire to travel and seek new experiences. So, following a period of readjustment, a new business as usual will soon evolve and global mobility will no doubt continue.
Relocate Magazine Autumn Issue 2018
This article first appeared in the autumn 2018 issue of Relocate magazine.

For related news and features, visit our Brexit section.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory