London is one of the world’s business capitals – a world-class financial hub, home to leading businesses across finance, professional services, law, technology, and creativity.
While Brexit will not change these fundamentals, we know that it will cause new challenges that firms need to address to continue to be successful.
Big firms will weather the storm – they have the resources, capacity, and flexibility to prepare. But the mayor of London and I are deeply concerned about smaller businesses.
As someone who founded a successful fintech SME, I know the realities of running a startup. You operate on tight margins, take risks to grow, and work long days and weeks to keep things moving.
I’ve spoken to entrepreneurs who simply don’t have the time to keep looking in detail at what a deal or no-deal Brexit might mean for their business, or the capacity to divert staff to work on preparations for the new regulatory burdens involved in moving goods or data across borders.
It therefore comes as no surprise to me that, according to a recent survey by Tech UK, only 43 per cent of small businesses and 50 per cent of medium-sized businesses feel fairly or very well prepared for a potential no-deal Brexit in October.
Every business owner in the UK needs to be able to show suppliers, clients and investors that they are taking the basic steps needed to maintain trade after the EU exit date. And so the mayor and I are doing everything we can to support them as our departure from the EU looms ever closer.
Last year, we launched the Brexit Business Resource Hub, bringing together support from many sources through a single portal, and I’d encourage all SME leaders to look into how it may be useful to them.
Throughout September and October, City Hall is staging business roadshows across the capital, offering advice, resources and workshops from experts. As part of the mayor’s #LondonIsOpen campaign, the roadshows are free to attend and address the essential steps businesses should take to prepare.
So what issues is Brexit causing for SMEs, and what are we doing to help?
First, international workers. Non-UK EU citizens account for 14 per cent of employees in the capital. Many businesses have already taken steps to support their employees to secure their rights, but not all have the capacity or know-how to do so.
We are therefore conducting surgeries in workplaces and visiting communities with high numbers of EU citizens to ensure that people know how to apply for settled status. If your employees or colleagues could benefit, we can help.
The mayor’s EU Londoners Hub also offers a wealth of online information on the settled status scheme, and where to find support in each London borough and across the country.
Second, data. No-deal preparation is clearly not just an issue for importers and exporters – London’s digital economy is hugely reliant on cross-border data flows.
We don’t know what new regulations will take shape around data held in the EU by British firms, so businesses should continue to apply GDPR standards and follow the Information Commissioner’s current guidance. We are also offering help to SMEs to get them up to speed with these crucial issues.
Finally, those who trade in goods must also consider how they are going to move them in and out of the UK as quickly as possible. According to the British Chamber of Commerce, six in 10 of UK businesses that trade internationally are not aware of an HMRC scheme – transitional simplified procedures – which could help them to do this.
These simple steps would help a business to pay import duties and fill out paperwork later, rather than risk having their goods stuck at the border.
It’s absolutely vital that we work together now to demonstrate – to EU Londoners, to our trading partners, and to our investors – that London is open and will stay so.
If your business would benefit from our help, we urge you to get in touch.
To find out more, visit growthhub.london/brexithub/
Main image credit: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images