‘We’re about to be thrown under a Boris bus’: businesses on a no-deal Brexit | Politics

‘We offer free flights to cancer patients but our pilots will no longer be able to fly in the case of a no-deal Brexit’

We are a charity based in Cambridge offering free flights to children who are ill and need treatment. In addition to our local work, we currently financially support 60 children with cancer in Myanmar, and later this month we start operations in Ghana. Our international work is done in partnership with another UK charity.

It took us over a year to source an aeroplane we could afford for our work in the UK. Our specially prepared aircraft has a Czech Republic registration and is flown by our volunteer pilots in the UK. In the case of a no-deal Brexit, according to the Civil Aviation Authority, from 29 March our pilots won’t be able to legally fly the plane. This means our charity will stop operations and the provision of services to our beneficiaries. Fernando Pinho, CEO of Please Take Me There, founded in 2016

‘We sought government advice but were unable to get any assurances; we’ve now closed our operation in France’

Wentworth Jones is a UK company that provides tourism and hospitality consultancy services internationally. AktivExperience was a French registered branch of Wentworth Jones which we have decided to close after trading successfully for 10 years. We were a small ski operating company offering fully catered accommodation in five chalets in Meribel. We sought government advice on the legal status of our business model and of our temporarily posted English staff in France post-Brexit.

We were unable to get any assurances that our model, the legal status of our company operating in France or the status of our staff would be protected post-Brexit. The only assurance from the Department for Exiting the EU was that we can legally operate up to the 29 March, just over halfway through the ski season! As we were about to take up new five-year leases on our chalets we decided that the potential liability and risk was too high and therefore reluctantly closed that operation. Peter Jones, director of Wentworth Jones

‘We are still cautious but a no-deal Brexit will be good for our business’

We are still cautious but from what we can see a no-deal Brexit will be good for our business. Most of our sales are to overseas advertisers, and most of those to EU-based companies. Firstly, a no-deal Brexit will probably mean the pound falls lower than it is now, which will be a huge benefit.

Secondly, we will not have to charge our EU customers VAT any more. While almost all of them can claim this back, it still means a cashflow saving for them, and a reduction in admin for them. This helps us to be marginally more competitive. We will also benefit from not having to file an ESL return to the EU every month. This is an onerous administrative task, akin to doing a VAT return. Anonymous, founder of a publishing company dealing with information and communication

‘We can’t have an open conversation with our customers because we don’t know what will happen for sure – just that it will be bad’

We design bike frames in the UK and work with factories outside the EU to have them produced. Around 25% of our orders are exported within the EU. The uncertainty we have had to endure since the referendum has been severely disruptive already. The volatility in foreign currency exchange rates has hurt us significantly. We launched just prior to the referendum and our first batch of frames were bought at 1.46 USD. The rate today? 1.23 USD.

We can’t talk about Brexit publicly as a business. We can’t have an open conversation about it with our customers and we can’t be clear with them about what the implications actually are. Firstly because we don’t know for sure – just that it will be bad. And secondly because any mention of Brexit is met with vitriol and ridicule. We’re “complaining” or “making excuses”. Building a new business from scratch is difficult at the best of times but in this environment, it has been extremely challenging. Ed Brazier, founder of Airdrop Bikes, founded in 2016

woman cleaning the floor in living room with vacuum cleaner



One owner of a cleaning company worries they won’t be able to get ‘good quality, cheap labour’ if there’s no deal. Photograph: South Agency/Getty Images/iStockphoto

‘No deal = no problem’

As an engineer I have not worked in the UK since graduating in 1982. Nimbyism (referring to residents who oppose proposed developments near where they live) on local, regional, and national scales means that greenfield plant investments in the US and Europe are virtually non-existent. All my revenue comes from French-speaking countries, the Middle East and North Africa, China, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Brazil etc. Therefore a no-deal Brexit would increase my GBP income since I invoice in US dollars. There might be a temporary glitch if the KLM shuttle flights from Manchester to Schiphol airport in the Netherlands are grounded for a week or three, otherwise, no-deal = no problem. Anonymous, consultant in heavy mineral processing and cement for a private contractor

‘The main issue for me is the supply of new, good-quality, low-cost labour’

I own a cleaning company in London and the main issue for me is the supply of new, good-quality, low-cost labour. For EU migrants cleaning is often a stepping stone to a better job and a better life compared to where they have come from. Several good workers have left to go back to their countries but there are none to take their place because far fewer people are coming to the UK to work.

Because of the low value society as a whole puts on cleaning, it is low-paid, physically demanding, unglamorous work. Brits and younger generations simply don’t want to do it. After Brexit the reality will hit. Many small businesses will suffer because they simply can’t supply good people to do the dirty jobs no one wants to do, and don’t want to pay a lot for. With Brexit we’re really shooting ourselves in the foot. Anonymous, owner of a cleaning company founded in 2008

‘We expect no real impact’

The lack of a “deal” could theoretically reduce the ease of invoicing EU-based companies so we do not look forward to that, although we manage to deal with customers in other regions, including some particularly complex regions like South America. Otherwise we expect no real impact; exchange rate fluctuations (with the pound going down against the dollar) have so far been profitable for us but in the long-term I expect this to be neutral. I find the intense pessimism of many in my industry (the IT channel) to be quite ludicrous at times; all the more so as the more vocal execs seem to have very little understanding of the EU in any meaningful sense. Paul Mason, CTO of an information and communication company

‘We feel we’re about to be thrown under a (big, red, lying) Boris bus’

We design and sell software products worldwide, and EU nations represent about a third of our market. We’ve been trading since 2004, and are well-known in our field. Trading in software products is classified as trading in services, and, as such, tariffs don’t affect us, but non-tariff barriers (eg VAT regulations) very much do.

Any changes to the relationship between the UK and EU internal market (or single market) could affect us greatly – especially any changes to VAT or regulations relating to selling technical services into the EU internal market (eg VAT MOSS). This effect is magnified by the fact that our online store merchant is based in Germany (there are no UK-based online store merchants in our sector), so virtually everything we sell – even to the USA and India – happens via an EU27-based reseller.

Unfortunately the UK government no longer seems to be interested in companies trading in services, and we can’t make any real contingency plans until we know what is going to happen. The worst case is that we close our doors. All in all, we feel we’re about to be thrown under a (big, red and lying) Boris bus. Anonymous, founder of a company dealing in scientific and technical activities

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