Now that the UK has decided to leave the European Union, it has opened up a new series of questions and fears that many thought would never come to fruition. Businesses have been arguing for months running up to the vote. Plenty seemed to say that leaving the union would be bad for businesses and the economy. Plenty had the opposite to say and citied that greater freedoms would make up for any uncertainty and instability that the UK may suffer in the coming years.
While big businesses have had very public debates about the outcome of a Brexit vote, SMEs, micro-businesses and freelancers have been left a little in the dark.
A study from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) in October found that out of 3,150 freelancers, 61% would vote to remain in the EU. 24% said they would leave and 29% said they were unsure.
A more recent poll run by FreeAgent found that 49% of freelancers and micro-businesses thought that Brexit would have a negative effect on their business. Only 5% said that they would experience a positive effect on their businesses. A third said it would have no impact.
Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent said: “many web-based small businesses who are increasingly selling products and services worldwide…think a Brexit will create an uncertain future for them.
“For tech companies, in particular, the EU also opens up the opportunity to hire world-class developers from Europe who can work alongside the best talent from the UK to create more sophisticated technology, develop better products and services and to help build bigger businesses.”
Bearing this in mind, here are two major ways that freelancers might be affected:
Freedom of movement
One of the appeals of working as a freelancer is the ability to work remotely. The EU rules on free movement have made it easy for freelancers to work while travelling or living abroad. After the Brexit vote, this may no longer be the case.
Freelancers may find it more difficult to begin freelancing in another country. Currently, all countries have their own system of rules on this subject. Countries like Germany and France have stricter regulations and require freelancers to prove that their businesses will be beneficially to the economy. Non-EU citizens have to do the same and it’s likely that UK citizens will be subjected to the same rules.
However, the free movement of labour is still being considered so this part of EU legislation may not change. One of the options that is being considered is to have a similar system to that of Norway or Switzerland which allows the free movement of workers with EU member states.
Whatever deal is made between the EU and the UK, freelancers will have to make some key decisions about where they want to be based and what the consequences of that will be on their business.
Many people have also become concerned about the price of travel. Experts have said that the UK benefits from an ‘open skies agreement’, meaning that airlines can fly wherever they want in the EU. At the moment, it is uncertain whether this will continue. Exchange rates are also likely to make travelling more expensive, at least for the time being.
Payments and the free movement of capital
Using a UK bank account while doing business in the EU may lead to problems. The free movement of capital may no longer be part of any new relationship with the EU. Freelancers and business owners transferring money are likely to be hit with new charges they otherwise wouldn’t have had to pay had we remained in the EU. It will also affect freelancers who want to sell their services or products in other countries with potential changes to legislation and taxes.
If the free movement of capital goes it may discourage freelancers from working with people around the EU or working from within it. This could mean a smaller pool of clients to work with and a potential loss of income.
Despite these fears, nothing is for certain while a deal is yet to be made. Freelancers might not end up worse off, or they might have to change their business models significantly. It’s still worth planning for any potential changes so that you’re not left with a nasty surprise.
How do you think Brexit will affect your freelance business? Have you made any changes to plans since the vote? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!