The UK will officially leave the EU in less than a month. Many small businesses will have been preparing for this moment for some time. But, amid the global pandemic, news of Brexit has (rightly) taken a back seat with the opportunities that Brexit presents somewhat muted.
Just as we’ve seen this year with the pandemic, agile businesses have capitalised on opportunities and some have thrived. Indeed, research by Barclaycard found that 32% of businesses were better prepared for the UK’s second lockdown because of changes they’d made to their business in the first.
For small business owners, it is worth considering what Brexit might mean for their business and how they can adapt to ensure they maximise any opportunities it presents. In this article we look at just some of those opportunities available to businesses as the UK formally leaves the EU.
1. Opportunity for international expansion
Going into 2021, business owners can explore new markets in which to trade. With the UK not constrained by the EU’s trade agreements, the government has been negotiating new deals with countries such as Canada and Japan. For business owners who may have traditionally focused on EU markets for their products or services, Brexit may be the incentive they need to tap into new markets. Exploring international markets has proved successful for many British products. For example, Scotch Whiskey has seen significant growth due to growing demand from Asian and African countries.
2. Less regulation could mean more innovation
Reducing red tape was one of the key arguments put forth by the leave campaign during the Referendum. Many experts believe that being able to set our own laws and regulation will allow UK companies more scope to innovate. Indeed, it’s estimated that the most onerous EU rules cost the UK economy more than £33bn a year . While there is some debate on these estimates, it’s clear that with more autonomy, the UK will be able to incentivise innovation within businesses. This will be particularly needed as we recover from the effects of the pandemic in 2021.
For business owners, now is the time to consider how to make the most of this new regulatory landscape and create products and services that are transformative for our businesses and our communities.
3. Supporting domestic talent
Much has been talked about the impact Brexit will have on business’ recruitment plans. While skilled workers can still move to and work in the UK, freedom of movement is coming to an end. This will have repercussions for businesses that have traditionally hired from the EU. For more on the impact Brexit will have on recruitment see here.
However, amid record unemployment levels in the UK, is there an opportunity for businesses to hire employees closer to home and help those currently out of work? Investing in domestic talent and upskilling workers will not only benefit your business but could benefit the UK economy overall.
4. Helping other businesses
For some businesses however, leaving the EU will have a detrimental effect and they will need help. Perhaps those flexible businesses who can adapt can step in to help those adversely affected by offering needed services or products. Just as businesses came together during the lockdowns to find creative solutions, the same collegiate thinking could be applied to Brexit.
As businesses prepare to leave the EU there is the opportunity for innovation and collaboration. The businesses who can adapt during this time, will be able to thrive in the long term as the UK starts on its new course.