Services sector post Brexit

Much of the discussion around Brexit has focused on importing and exporting physical goods to/from the United Kingdom, while failing to address the service sectors that comprise a significant proportion of the Irish economy. In service sectors, the value of the product often lies in the expertise and quality of the service offered by firms to their customers.

Below, the Brexit Unit in Enterprise Ireland explores some of the issues that may affect the service sector as a result of Brexit.

 

Intellectual Property

The value of a business is increasingly linked to its Intellectual Property (IP). IP includes patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Presently EU trademarks, for example, are protected within the EU but not in third countries. Brexit will affect the protection afforded in the UK for those who have registered European Union Trademarks (EUTMs) or designs, the future trading agreement will determine what protections remain.

According to Joe Doyle, IP Manager at Enterprise Ireland, in a ‘no-deal’ scenario it is almost certain that EUTMs and designs will eventually cease to have effect in the UK. Companies are advised to conduct an IP audit, assessing their dependence on IP protection in the UK and the associated risks of losing such protection. Firms should subsequently speak with legal and IP advisors to ensure their IP Strategies are Brexit-proof.

 

Contracts/Legal

Service sector businesses with exposure to the UK market will need to start planning for the legal changes that are likely to arise post Brexit. Contractual and legal challenges could emerge with cross-border service level agreements (SLAs), product licences, insurance policies and data transfers, which may not be legally protected or recognised after the UK leaves the EU. Companies should take steps to review their existing contracts and trading arrangements, reviewing their most strategic contracts and employing caution when entering new contracts with UK based parties.

 

Data

Data has a fundamental role in today’s business with many companies outsourcing services such as payroll, promotional marketing and the storage of IP addresses to third countries.

The EU has developed high data protection standards and after Brexit the UK will no longer fall within the remit of these standards, becoming a third country. Consequently, there will be greater risk associated with the transfer of data between the EU and the UK after Brexit. Irish companies that intend to transfer personal data to the UK will need to act by putting safeguards in place to protect the data in the context of its transfer and subsequent processing. One such way is the use of Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs)  which is likely to be relevant to most Irish businesses that transfer personal data to the UK.

The Data Protection Commission has published guidelines for firms seeking to learn about data transfers post-Brexit. You can also learn more from this webinar where Data Commissioner Nicola Coogan outlined the impact Brexit is likely to have on data flows between Ireland and the UK.

 

People

To continue working in the UK after Brexit, EU citizens are required to apply to the UK government for settled status, living in the UK for more than 5 years, or pre-settled status, residing in the UK for less than 5 years. When the UK leaves the EU, Ireland and the UK will automatically revert to the common travel area (CTA) and Irish citizens will be automatically viewed as ‘settled’ on arrival in the UK. This will be the case with or without a Brexit deal.

The rights of UK citizens living and working in the EU after Brexit will be far more complex given the fact that individual states have control over the status of individuals who choose to reside and work within their territory. It’s crucial that individuals, as well as Irish firms employing UK citizens in EU states, check the terms of residency and employment within the given jurisdiction(s) where one resides as they will need to make an application to stay within that respective country.

This Brexit webinar provides more detail on how Brexit will impact the movement of people.

 

Regulation

Regulation varies greatly between different service sector industries and it tends to be most stringent in the areas of finance, aviation and healthcare.

The UK may choose regulatory alignment with the EU in many sectors, especially given the importance of the services sector in the UK which benefits largely from trade within the EU. The UK will, however, lose the ‘passporting’ rights that apply to many service sector industries that operate throughout the EU as a single market.

Companies operating in sectors that are highly regulated should assess the impact that Brexit will have on their operations. It’s important that such companies speak to their relevant regulator to ensure they are taking the right steps to mitigate the impact that Brexit will have on their operations.

The financial services sector is particularly exposed to Brexit and the Central Bank has issued Brexit guidance for financial service firms which can be accessed here.

 

Foreign Exchange and Currency

The uncertainty of Brexit has added to the challenge faced by businesses when trading between the UK and Ireland, especially in relation to currency volatility where fluctuations in Euro-Sterling rates may have a significant adverse impact on company profitability.

Companies should measure and manage exposure to such currency fluctuations, establish protective mechanisms to minimise risk and uncertainty and continue to monitor any potential risks that may emerge. In the Brexit Webinar series John Power, Director of SGL, outlines the impact of Brexit on Currency and Foreign Exchange.

The Enterprise Ireland Currency Impact Calculator can help you understand the effect of movements in the sterling/euro exchange rate on your business.

Service sector companies can use the Be Prepared Grant to determine how the company could respond to the threats and opportunities of Brexit.

 

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