Despite the fact that there are nearly 2m freelancers currently based in the UK (IPSE, 2018), we have seen the media focus on the effect Brexit is going to have on big businesses. Freelancers contribute almost £300bn a year to the UK economy so it is important that they are properly prepared for the inevitable changes. This article brings you three of the key topics to consider as a freelancer, whilst the Brexit process continues to be prolonged without a clear end in sight.
Intellectual property and trademarks for freelancers
Copyright and intellectual property (IP) are key areas for freelancers to consider once the changes from Brexit are finalised. Much of the UK’s regulations around come as a direct influence from the EU.
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, when applying for a UK trademark or design at the UK Intellectual Property Office, freelancers and small businesses will need to provide a UK address. Currently, any address in the EEA can be provided.
The government has confirmed that the Intellectual Property Office will create comparable UK trademarks for all European Union Trade Marks (EUTMs). These new trademarks will have the same filing date as the original EUTMs and will be completely independent to the original EUTM. This means they can be challenged, licensed, assigned or renewed separately.
How to prepare: At this moment, there isn’t a huge amount you need to do, the Intellectual Property Office will create the comparable trademark for you. If you are freelancing in the UK and will need to apply for a UK trademark or you’re freelancing in the EU and need to apply for a EUTM, make sure you have an address in the relevant region to use for your application.
Conclusion of free movement
The end of free movement was a key talking and voting point in the Brexit referendum. Unfortunately, because of this, it has become unlikely that this will be stopped unless there is a second referendum or Article 50 is revoked. Currently, it’s possible to go and work anywhere in the EU28 without the need to apply for a visa. This will no longer be the case if the free movement legislation is removed, which will provide obstacles and delays to freelancers looking to work with clients based here.
How to prepare: Keep a lookout for opportunities to increase your client base in the UK during the uncertainty and potential implications from a talent shortage following the closure of free movement.
Post-Brexit Relocation of clients
The UK is used as the European headquarters for many companies from America, Asia and even the EU itself. During a recent survey, almost a third of British and German companies said that they would move operations from outside the UK or permanently leave in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Notably, IT and finance sectors, which rely heavily on freelancers and contractors, have said that they would relocate or reduce operations in the UK. Clearly, this will have a negative impact on you if your clients decide to relocate.
How to prepare: The best way to prepare is by speaking to your clients and trying to understand if this is a likely possibility. Once you know this, you can make the necessary arrangements to be ready to support them, for example if you can continue to work for them remotely.
As you can see, the complications for freelancers are much larger in the event of a no-deal Brexit. At this moment, it still remains unlikely that this will happen, however, it has not been taken off the table either. It is important that you prepare for the worst case scenario if you want to ensure you are affected as little as possible. It is also important to remember that there are opportunities out there through the uncertainty, remain agile in your business development strategy.