EU Referendum – Working with Overseas Customers
We’re in the final week before the referendum on whether or not Britain will remain a member of the European Union and the result is still far from predictable. Some of my clients have reported that their overseas customers are understandably concerned, hesitating to place orders and expressing doubts about what will happen to their working relationship if we do leave the EU. The main confusion seems to be how the processes of working with overseas clients will be impacted depending on the result on June 23rd.
The only thing we can be sure about is that we cannot be sure of anything. Claims from both Remain and Leave campaigns are conflicting in this unprecedented situation, and it is therefore impossible to give concerned clients any assurances either way.
Overseas Customers – Maintain Communication
However, you can maintain communication about this issue with overseas customers by talking them through the likely consequences of either result whilst acknowledging that this is a complex issue.
Put simply, if we vote to remain in the EU, ‘things’ should get back to ‘normal’ relatively quickly. This means that planning with a degree of economic certainty can continue, and customers will not have to worry about adjusting to new processes.
The Brexit Process
But in the event of a Brexit, then what? Whether it’s the leave camp’s promises of economic prosperity or the pro-EU predictions of financial disadvantages which ultimately prevail is, at this stage, nether predictable nor particularly relevant. It is essential to stress to concerned clients that an exit and its inherent changes would be a lengthy process rather than a jarringly rapid readjustment.
Many people will expect things to happen right away, that we’ll wake up on the 24th with unrecognisable, bewildering systems and processes. The reality is decidedly more mundane. It will take time to work out the implications of leaving the EU, possibly in the order of two years.
Brexit – Timescales
To simplify a complex process: if Britain does decides to leave, Article 50 of the European Treaties will be initiated to begin the process of exit. This triggers a two year period where negotiations to discuss the arrangements for exit take place with the European Union. If no agreement is reached within this two year period – and there is no unanimous decision among the other member states to delay – Britain is automatically ‘kicked out’. In the event of us being ‘kicked out’ the current access to the single market would cease, and current trade agreements would therefore expire. Following this, it is reasonable to expect a time of economic uncertainty until agreements on new processes are reached, established, and understood. As seems to be the case with any area of discussion surrounding the EU, it is impossible to be sure of anything.
However, we can predict with a certain degree of confidence that in the event of a Brexit neither the Leave campaigner’s optimistic economic vision, nor the Remain camp’s concerns for our financial future, will materialise any time soon.
If you would like discuss how you can manage your customer’s expectation or anything else about the effect Brexit may have on SMEs please contact CMC via the form below.