It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that Brexit has dominated the headlines since the referendum nine months ago. The government has not only had to deal with a supreme court ruling that ruled that parliament must have a say in the Brexit process and the pound plummeting to record lows but it’s also had to address concerns from startups about how Brexit may affect their ability to source talent, trade internationally and raise funds. And now that we have a concrete date for when the divorce negotiations can begin, the business community has reacted with a spectrum of emotions, ranging from nervousness to optimism.
Commenting on the news that Britain will trigger Article 50 on March 29, Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, the organisation supporting UK SMEs, said that the government must ensure that SMEs will retain “easy access to the EU single market” and safeguard their ability to recruit talent in a post-Brexit Britain. Noting that 21% of small businesses employ citizens from elsewhere in the EU, he said: “The right to remain for these non-UK EU citizens must be guaranteed at the earliest opportunity to provide reassurance to smaller firms and their work forces. Settling this issue is crucial to business owners and the economy.”
And while some officials in Germany, Spain and France have been trying to court British entrepreneurs since the vote, Benjamin Trochu, co-founder and managing partner of Iron Group, the digital assistance services startup, doesn’t think these attempts will prove more successful now that the trigger date has been announced. “London remains a great tech hub full of innovation and exciting early-stage companies,” he said.
And Jerry Brand, serial entrepreneur and founder of The Brand Foundation, a charity that supports entrepreneurs, expressed similar optimism. He said that the sooner negotiations with the EU begin the sooner the government can “repeal EU laws so that internally trading businesses can be rid of some of the current red tape.”
With one week to go before May pulls the trigger, it’s safe to say that the British startup community is paying close attention to what happens next.