What Brexit means for people and goods

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Now Brexit isn’t on a daily basis on the front pages of the papers anymore, it is time to take stock. In my previous blog I discussed the steps companies are taking in general. Now I will have a look at the consequences for the free movement of people and goods.

Jan-Willem Thoen – tax advisor PwC

Brexit will likely have a significant impact on UK nationals working in the EU, and on EU nationals working in the UK. Despite the fact that the exact consequences are still unknown, some measures can already be taken to mitigate the effects of Brexit and to ensure that staff is kept up to date as appropriate.

Potential changes in crucial compliance areas, combined with the uncertainty of the impact on markets, has put planning for the future in the spotlight. HR departments need to be ready to answer questions from employees on the personal impact of the Brexit vote on their employment. Below I zoom in on two issues for Global Mobility professionals that I believe companies should consider now in anticipation of the day the UK actually leaves the EU, both in terms of short-term and long-term consequences.

Taking immediate practical actions

First of all, it is important to assess the impact of the (potential) fluctuating value of the GBP on compensation strategies. A number of immediate actions might be required with respect to the globally mobile workforce to ensure that cost of living adjustments, assignment costings, payroll and shadow payroll calculations remain accurate. Furthermore, existing assignment policies should be reviewed to ensure that they are clear on subjects such as immigration assistance, social security and sustained foreign exchange volatility. Also, as subject matter experts, Global Mobility should be prepared to answer the inevitable practical questions about what action employees need to take to secure their ability to continue to work in the UK or within the EU. 

Planning for the future

Further, it is important to assess which particular workforces, employment structures, projects or business areas may be affected by the potential changes in immigration requirements, labour laws, pension and social security rules. And also how these changes may manifest themselves and what corrective actions may be required. Proactive and early engagement with business leaders will enable Global Mobility to demonstrate that it is a strategic enabler during times of uncertainty and change.

Bringing data and insights on areas such as the demographics of mobile workers, immigration status and cost scenario planning, can bring much-needed clarity to inform and shape the debate and also have the right management information on the table when decisions need to be made.

The consequences for goods

Companies are already reconsidering their operational models and supply chains in relation to goods. Particularly multinational companies that hold cross-border customs authorisations issued in the UK, have started investigating available options to replace (and were possible upgrade) their current approach.

As a result of the Brexit vote, the added value of cross-border authorisations issued in the UK will become very limited. As a matter of fact, for the operations performed in other EU member states, this authorisation will become useless, which potentially results in operational issues. Therefore, companies have already started exploring other options available to them.

The Netherlands are an attractive alternative

In the case where cross-border authorisations issued in the UK lose their value, the Netherlands could become an attractive alternative. The Netherlands does not only have a favourable geographical location, which includes being home to the largest port of Europe and having high quality rail and road infrastructure, but the Dutch customs authorities are also very experienced in managing cross-border authorisations. In addition, importing via the Netherlands provides the option for companies to avoid the payment of VAT at import, regardless of whether the goods will be used locally or re-exported to other EU countries.

Specific industry aspects aside, companies with a substantial flow of goods between the UK and the other EU member states, are generally more concerned about future business and supply chain structures than companies who serve a local customer base. Though in some instances, for instance where there is a strong local UK product demand, strengthening local production for this market may also be an alternative.

Jan-Willem Thoen is tax advisor at PwC. For any people related questions regarding the Brexit, you can also contact our specialist Marieke Kees-van der Zwet, +31 (0)6 126 142 33. For any goods or services questions, feel free to contact our specialists Saskia Hadewegg Scheffer, +31 (0)6 138 571 93 or Bart van Osch +31 (0)6 539 510 13. Do you want to know more about the possible consequences of Brexit? Visit our special Brexit webpage.


Jan-Willem Thoen
Senior Director
Tel: +31 (0)88 792 36 80

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