Is Britain open for international mobility?

The people of the U.K. have spoken and the "leave" vote has prevailed. Is Britain open for international mobility? The results were certainly a surprise to many, especially in the business world. It will take time to understand the full impact of the Brexit victory on the U.K., the EU, the business world and the mobility community – but in the short term, we’ve put together some basics to consider as we all try to "keep calm and carry on." 

What global mobility teams and their assignees need to know about Brexit

What is Article 50 and why is it key to Brexit?

Your assignee population and global mobility teams are probably all asking what will happen and when. 

Part of the Lisbon Treaty, Article 50 was put in place in 2009 to address the improbable scenario of member-countries choosing to leave the EU. It will trigger official separation negotiations for Britain's proverbial divorce from the EU. 

Until the U.K. officially asks for the separation, Article 50 will not be triggered. Once it is put in motion, the U.K. and EU will have two years to make all exit decisions. During those two years, current EU regulations in place in the U.K. will continue to be valid – but the U.K. will not be able to vote on new EU decisions. 

The immediate attitudes post-referendum are that EU leadership wants Article 50 to be set in motion immediately; they do not want a long drawn-out separation that will potentially give other EU country-members the chance to reconsider their membership. 

The U.K. is not looking to trigger Article 50 right away, if ever. Some "leave" politicians see the Brexit win as an opportunity to renegotiate the U.K.'s position in the EU – but don't see the need to leave. For those of us waiting to see when and how Brexit will work, we’ll all need to watch the Article 50 discussions. 

What to tell your international assignees in the U.K. and EU

Companies and their global mobility teams will want to address any immediate concerns and set the tone for business continuity calmly. 

  • Immigration – there are no immediate changes. Once Article 50 is triggered, it will take two years for changes to be put in motion; immigration policy will be reassessed as part of the separation strategy. Something to watch since immigration was such a strong topic during the Brexit campaign
  • Currency – the GBP fell to its lowest level since 1985 following the referendum. Depending on currency fluctuation, some assignment allowances or compensation might need to be adjusted
  • Taxes – there are no immediate changes. There are several options being considered for a post-EU Britain, but that is going to be determined as part of the separation strategy
  • Career and project planning, and family stability – these are the key topics that companies can discuss right away and begin to reassure their affected assignees. If you have U.K. or EU-based projects, or initiatives, that rely on mobile employees and require stability, in terms of employee retention and business continuity, this is an area that you will need to identify and develop a strategy for. Some assignees might decide that the uncertainty is too much. The more the company can communicate what is, and is not, changing and their position on the Brexit situation, the better. Some organizations in the U.K. rely on EU funding, subsidies or tax credits, and therefore the uncertainty is even greater
  • Supply chain contracts – nothing will change, but current uncertainty might impact the duration of, or wording in, contracts that are signed going forward (until the new EU-U.K. relationship is determined)

Clearly, the new normal – in terms of Britain leaving the EU – is still to be determined. Certain industries are already discussing contingency plans. At Crown World Mobility, we’ll continue to communicate regular updates and considerations on the Brexit as new information emerges. If you have specific concerns related to your mobility program and assignee population, please contact our mobility team directly.