Brexit is an ongoing challenge facing businesses in 2021. Naturally, changes are taking place and these changes affect everyone. What exactly do these new waters mean for freelancers, startups and small businesses? 

In an interview with Matthew Perkins of FreeAgent we get a glimpse on the Brexit effect, and what Matt recommends these sectors can do to mitigate challenges. 

Matt and FreeAgent

Matthew is the Senior Partnerships Manager at FreeAgent. He works with key partnerships and 3rd party integrators who provide solutions to small businesses to help them run their enterprises.

FreeAgent was acquired by NatWest in 2018 (formerly Royal Bank of Scotland Group) after they became a public company in 2016. And they topped Deloitte’s list of the fastest growing technology firms back in 2013. FreeAgent was founded by three people and designed to make managing their accounts easier. From there, it has grown to be one of the UK’s leading accounting software providers due to their approach to making bookkeeping easy and accessible to non-accountants, backed up by market leading product support.

FreeAgent is designed to be your business engine, allowing you to automate the admin side of your business and helps you stay organized while you grow.

When the pandemic started, even FreeAgent had to adapt to the changes. As the world has gone online, they have a lot of online businesses; e-commerce type businesses and retail who obviously are doing a lot of digital trade at the moment. To support those businesses as they’ve diversified, FreeAgent is working very closely with some key partners to provide additional functionality to this growing sector. They are also making sure that using the platform and the integrations are seamless as to make it easier for the businesses to use.

Brexit’s impact on the SME Industry

We ask Matt how in his experience, Brexit is impacting the small business industry? And what business operators need to do to stay on top of these changes?

Matt provides great insight on the matter, and encourages people to get all the certifications and approvals in place as soon as they can. It’s important to understand how your business, especially if you’re importing and exporting, will be affected and how you can adapt to these new rules.

Matt shares a few quick pointers for exporters — 

  • A rule of origin certification must be obtained to show where the product was assembled — the materials or goods must originate from the UK or EU.
  • Under the free trade agreement, zero tariffs and low quotas are applied to the on rules of origin.
  • Exporting into the EU must show a statement of origin on all products.
  • Be sure to consider how things like state aid, grants, transport costs, copyrights, patents and trademarks are affected under the new law.
  • Recognition of qualifications also comes into play when business owners may have the experience but certain licences must be in place to ensure recognition as a professional in both the UK and EU.
  • If you’re exporting over £6000 of product, you must have a registration number.
  • You can apply as a Registered Economic Provider which aids in many of the processes going a lot smoother.

For the importers, Matt says a really big win is that VAT charges can be postponed which help ease up cash flow and you must have an EORI number. Also, worth noting is that before travelling for business you must have at least six months on your passport.

To sum it up, Brexit affects the product-based companies and the import and export sector heavily but there’s still a lot of detail that’s not been agreed on and finalized yet. So one has to be mindful of that and be sure to stay up to date with the developments to get the right certificates and the right agreements in place.

You can read a rundown of what the Brexit deal means for small businesses, tackling the essentials on handling your business in regard to the new trade regulations.

Mitigating Brexit Challenges

Don’t stick your head in the sand, but rather start to understand what you need to do business amid the new regulations – be prepared and get organized. Matt also iterates that it would not hurt you to seek the help of professionals that can guide you through the transitions.