The Brexit diaries are snippets of personal views from employees around the globe in Fieldfisher offices.
Having studied in Scotland and worked in London and now living in one of the closest foreign capital cities to the UK – Amsterdam – the Brexit vote was truly shocking. In 1997 as an exchange student I took part in a Moot Court arguing that withdrawal from the EU was not possible as certain sovereign rights had already been given up by Member States. How wrong I was (though we won the Moot Court in question)!
Emotions aside, Brexit will not have much impact on the way the UK or the Netherlands do business or how commercial transactions are regulated. Still, there is a period of uncertainty regarding free movement, trade restrictions and certain aspects of EU law.
In the Netherlands, we will of course take Brexit as an opportunity and use it to become the structuring and HQ location for companies entering Europe. We have excellent Bilateral Investment Treaties in place and will soon have a commercial court hearing cases in English. So, although very shocking and a personal disappointment, thank you very much Brexit!
Beijing & Shanghai
For those of us in China, we do not feel the impact of Brexit yet since many of our clients do not care that much. From a personal perspective, we think it is good because the EU is too protectivist for Chinese companies and investment. Whether Brexit will benefit Chinese companies or not depends on policies after Brexit. Under the current Prime Minister, we do not feel optimism since she is anti-international students and immigrants.
We hope through Brexit, the UK will be able to liberalize its trade and investment policies and make itself more attractive to international companies. Right now, Brexit is focused too much on Europe – the UK should look beyond Europe.
The uncertainty surrounding a deal/no deal Brexit is concerning, as is the lack of visibility surrounding how that decision will be made. Whist the Brexit negotiations continue between now and March 2019 (and during any agreed transition period), our job is to assist clients to prepare for and minimise disruption to business. Apart from reviewing the legal and regulatory landscapes of your organisation, a good start will involve strengthening trading relationships both within and outside the EU.
Although from a Brussels perspective Brexit came as a quite shocking surprise, it is not expected to affect the fundamentals of EU27 functioning or economics. In fact, some continental EU Member States anticipate becoming the venue of certain specific types of industries such as finance and insurance moving from the UK. Therefore, more details must be expected on the effective form of Brexit that will be pursued before appropriate corporate and economic strategies can be developed for clients intending to delocalise from the UK. In the meantime, from a EU27 point of view, it is business as usual.
I have always supported the idea behind the European Union. Brexit is an unfortunate decision but we have to deal with it. Right after the day of the decision, many clients called us and asked whether they need to act on the spot and whether they even need to move offices or people, even clients from Japan. Facing many uncertainties it is definitely not the time for rash decisions but for a strategic plan, we all have to prepare.
When I joined Fieldfisher in 2012, Brexit was a cloud on the horizon but one that I thought would never result in any real thunderous turbulences. Things changed on one of the hottest summer days in June 2016 when we had a firm barbecue and neither me nor one of my colleagues thought that Brexit would become a reality.
While I still hope that a miracle happens and the UK stays within the EU as it is one of its most prominent members, we have started to deal with the very concrete possibility and the challenges resulting therefrom– and those changes in the world of trademarks, designs and other IP rights that are EU law dominated will not be minor – in the best possible way.
I am a Scot who studied in Spain and who has lived in London all his working life. The vote for Brexit was quite shocking. Over the medium – long term the UK-EU27 relationship will be fine, but I think we will see some short term turbulence, particularly because of the time pressure associated with the Article 50 process. We are focused on helping clients to be prepared for that turbulence.
Brexit clearly creates short term uncertainty for many of our clients and there are undoubtedly complex legal implications. Nonetheless I am of the view that the risks are not as great as some of the more pessimistic commentators suggest. We have been working hard to help clients navigate Brexit and I am confident that we as a European law firm are well placed to assist clients through the transition period.
As long as I can reminder I have experienced the strong belief of Germans in the idea of Europe. A strong EU including the UK was a matter of course for me. I was rather dreaming of travelling from Germany to the UK without any border control than considering Brexit a realistic scenario. Unfortunately I was torn roughly from my dreams…
I know so many Germans as well as people from the UK and other EU countries who are extremely disappointed about Brexit. However, it is about time to transform these feelings into our joint efforts to deal with Brexit in the best possible way, not least from an economic and legal perspective. We are fully committed and prepared to support you in doing so.
In 1992, I wrote that one of the worst possible scenarios for the EU would be a Brexit, and I am saddened to have witnessed it. As the chair of the International Legal Services Committee of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of the European Union (my term ends in January 2018), I feel it is my responsibility to do everything I can to ensure that after 2019, UK firms can continue practicing on the Continent in as close to the current conditions as possible, and this message is generally well received. Continued appearance of UK solicitors or barristers before the EU courts will however be problematic, and relying on a qualification in Ireland without actually practicing there is quite doubtful.
Italy: Bologna, Milan, Rome, Turin and Venice
During our professional life we have experienced both local and global crises (new economy, real estate, subprime, etc.) and we believe that lessons must be learnt from these experiences: any crisis could be turned into business opportunities. Negative events could unexpectedly come also into advisory firms, no matter how we may try to avoid them. They are unwanted and unpleasant experiences but if approached in the appropriate way they can also lead to positive surprises. We would like to believe that Brexit is no exception.
The initial shock and disappointment of the Brexit referendum must be left behind - now particular attention should be paid to the UK-EU negotiation process and we must be ready to seize the upcoming opportunities (on both size of the Channel) taking into account that possible scenarios are still unpredictable and anything can still happen. In the meantime we take note that despite the formal notice served under Article 50 of The Treaty on European Union to terminate the UK's membership of the EU there are still obligations to be performed as a Member country (take for example, the market abuse and data protection Regulations).
Most of the Bay Area is focusing on the impact of GDPR for their European subsidiaries, so at the moment the key question our US clients have in relation to Brexit is whether it will affect their GDPR readiness preparation. Most of them are hoping that GDPR won't apply anymore now that the UK is out of the EU.