Brexit Day 31 January 2020
Commentary from Charles Brasted, Head of the Hogan Lovells Public Law & Policy Team in the UK
To paraphrase Douglas Adams, we all like deadlines; we like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. It is a sound we have heard a few times in this Brexit process. There was for a long period doubt that Brexit would ever really happen, particularly among some of our international clients. But today it is happening. What will surprise perhaps is not that it is happening but how little difference will be felt by businesses in the first instance. It will be easy to be lulled into a sense that there is nothing to see here, nothing to do. That would be a dangerous conclusion, for two reasons. First, because in just eleven months this period of regulatory and trade continuity will come to an end unless some sort of agreement is reached - and many of the features of a hard Brexit would then follow - so contingency planning for that is still needed. Secondly, because the UK and EU embark now on trade negotiations, and domestic policy making, that could have profound implications for businesses - now is the critical time to engage actively in supporting that work, across the UK and EU27 and indeed beyond. There are risks and opportunities for businesses, not just on UK operations but also in the EU and from the shift in international political dynamics, so there is undoubtedly a busy time ahead.
There is a sense of focus and pragmatism. Many have put in place their plans, and executed where necessary. Brexit has become part of the global business environment that they have to manage. That means being better informed and more engaged to succeed. It means being more flexible and risk-aware in making commercial decisions and planning strategy. What many want to know now is how they can best support successful trade negotiations and drive an effective domestic policy agenda. With a UK government with a strong parliamentary majority and political will to take action, there is the prospect of decisive change where the importance of delivering political commitments may override longer-term economic considerations. And as political dynamics within the EU and between the EU27 governments evolve, international businesses will need to adapt to navigate the changing tides.