HR Policy Dives Into Brexit's "Inevitable Unknowns"

October 25, 2019

HR Policy hosted an Association-wide call tackling the coming implications of a deal-or-no-deal Brexit, which was moderated by Alan Wild, Director, Global Affairs at HR Policy, and featured a variety of expert perspectives.

Anne Hill, Senior VP and CHRO at Avery Dennison, began the call by noting that "whether Brexit occurs with or without a deal, there will be considerable implications for all members," while emphasizing that it is difficult to predict the extent of the fallout over the coming months and years with any degree of certainty.

Tom Hayes, Executive Director of BEERG, spoke at length about the challenges facing companies doing business in Europe and the UK.  He said, "companies are going to have to think carefully about their UK locations because of the uncertainty" created by any Brexit scenario. Hayes further stressed that "there is no consensus in the UK about its future relationship with Europe," and "what we have from a business perspective is a completely unknown, unknowable, and unstable future environment." Hayes also emphasized that the EU would not agree to any sort of significant trade deal with the UK that would undercut EU labor standards.

On the immigration front, Joanna Hunt, Managing Associate at Lewis Silkin, LLP, discussed the implications Brexit will have for employees without UK citizenship. She discussed how Brexit will bring about an end to free movement between the UK and mainland Europe and detailed the process employees will have to go through to achieve residency status in the UK ahead of Brexit.  The importance of guiding employees through the "tricky immigration process" ahead of the actual exit day was noted.

The effect on data privacy and the flow of data between the UK and the EU:  Ken Meul, Senior Managing Counsel, Privacy & Security Legal EMEA at Oracle, noted that "things are less fluid from a data privacy standpoint," and "no matter the outcome or timing of Brexit it will be business as usual when it comes to employee data."  The data privacy issue as it relates to Brexit is comparatively straightforward, without a need for "substantial institutional changes."

The call also featured Fabian Zuleeg, Chief Executive and Chief Economist at the European Policy Centre, who offered a perspective from the EU side of things and noted that "while it is very difficult to predict what will happen" it is likely that the UK will leave the EU within the next few months.  Zuleeg also added that "if you're trying to serve the EU market from London or the UK, it will become very difficult."

The call, which included representatives from American Express and Oracle, highlighted the many challenges Brexit will present for companies and the frustrating uncertainty surrounding the process.  HR Policy will continue to foster discussion and seek solutions and best practices to help guide its members through the immigration, data privacy, and labor issues—among others—associated with the UK's move.

BEERG launched the Brexit Exchange, in partnership with Lewis Silkin, on the call.  The Brexit Exchange is a secure, digital platform that brings together those with an interest in the impact of Brexit on employment, immigration and data.  It acts as a rich source of knowledge as well as a forum to generate and inform debate, discuss and resolve companies most pressing employee-related challenges within the context of Brexit. 

Read the full BEERG Newsletter.