With only eleven weeks to go before the UK leave the EU with or without a deal, there are a number of practical steps SMEs should consider doing now to help prepare for the transition.
1. Data transfers
Do you process any personal data from clients or customers in the EU? If you do not then you do not have to take any further action. If you do then it would be prudent to do the following:
1.1. Make sure you appoint someone to take lead responsibility for data protection if you have not already. The person responsible for data protection should review the data flows.
1.2. You may also wish to review your data transfer mechanisms. If you use standard contractual clauses (SCCs), you should revise their use in light of the recent Court of Justice of the EU judgment in Schrems II. See the initial statement from the ICO and the FAQs from the European Data Protection Board (EDPB).
1.3 You may need to update your privacy policies so that so that customers understand the movements of their personal data in and outside of the EU from 01 January 2021.
1.4 You may need to appoint an EU representative if you continue to offer products or services to customers in the EU (if you do not have an office in an EU/EEA country) and update your privacy notices to include their contact details. We can help with this – call us to discuss how.
Do you have a .eu registered web domain? If so there is a good chance you will not be able to renew your registration post 31 December 2020. You should consult the government’s guidance on domain names for further details.
As talks are ongoing, we don’t know what customs arrangements will be in place on 01 January 2020. There should be some certainty on this front next week. Deal or no deal, there is however likely to be disruption. Treasury and Cabinet Office Minister Lord Agnew has claimed that traders had their heads in the sand approach, and “were not as ready as they should be” (BBC 13 October 2020). This will inevitably end in a blame game, when delays and disruption when the new customs arrangements come into force on the 01 January 2021.
It is advisable to check with suppliers of European goods or services if they have taken contingency measures to ensure timely delivery/performance and, if so, how these measures are reflected in the contractual agreement. You will also need to consider any changes in VAT for invoicing.
4. Technology suppliers
If you have technology services hosted in the EU, you may need to revisit the terms and conditions with your providers before the end of the transition period to ensure continuity of service.
5. Check whether your staff requires a visa
Do you have staff working in the EU? If so do they have the correct visas? Do any visa exemptions apply? if so for how many days?
If your company has an EU presence and you have employees currently working in the EU, the EEA or Switzerland:
- check that your employees are already registered to work and live abroad with the relevant member state authorities.
- any new employees who are UK nationals travelling to Europe after 31 December 2020 will be considered third country nationals. They’ll need to get the right permits to enter, stay and work in that member state. Information about these permits is available from the relevant national authorities
- contact the relevant EU social security institution to check if your employee needs to start paying social security contributions in that country, as well as in the UK.
- your employees may also need to exchange their UK driving licence for a locally issued licence or obtain an international one.
Similar investigations should be undertaken in respect of any EU national coming to work in the UK from 01 January 2021. More details can be found here.