With just weeks to go until the referendum on the UK's continued membership of the European Union, a survey of over a thousand senior decision makers across Europe’s three largest economies (Germany, France and the UK) has found that only one in four businesses has developed a clear plan for dealing with the impact of a 'leave vote'.
The survey commissioned by law firm Pinsent Masons also found that more than half of respondents (53%) said there had been no discussion at Board level about the potential impacts of Brexit, and 40% of British businesses admit they have yet to take the basic steps which would help protect their business from commercial challenges arising from Brexit. For instance, 92% are yet to review business-critical contracts which could be rendered legally ambiguous in the event of a 'leave vote'.
The figures reflect that, while many larger businesses have begun contingency planning for Brexit, a significant proportion have not yet contemplated the impact a vote to leave might have. The political, regulatory, economic and societal nature of the UK is now so very intertwined with that of the EU, that any change in its status could have a significant impact on the organizations within. Business continuity is about preparing organizations for any disruption, and that includes the disruption caused by changing political systems It is therefore important that those working in the industry start considering how Brexit could affect their organization, and then make plans to lessen that impact.
Guy Lougher, a Partner and Head of the Brexit Advisory Team at Pinsent Masons, says: "If the UK vote is in favour of leaving the EU, there will be profound implications for all businesses irrespective of whether they operate or trade in - or with - the UK. A number of economists believe a vote in favour of Brexit would create a profound economic shock. Whether one accepts such predictions or not it is hard to imagine that - at the very least - exchange rates will not be impacted. The uncertainties in a Brexit scenario are so great that there may be a temptation to do nothing until the referendum result emerges. However, our advice to businesses is to start taking steps now. While one cannot protect against all risks, it is possible to identify the risk areas and start thinking about how these could be mitigated."
There are a number of measures businesses can institute now in order to minimise the disruption of Brexit upon business, from assessing the number of workers likely to be impacted by freedom of movement rules to reviewing how and where customer data is held.