Today’s Brexit announcement by British Prime Minister Theresa May sets a clear direction for the UK’s departure from the EU. But what does it mean to businesses when dealing with government online? And as a result what is the impact on government departments and agencies managing their services for business?

UK G2B services to get major overhaul

The Prime Minister’s statement would see significant changes for UK businesses:

  • By leaving the Common Market and creating a new customs union deal with the EU, information and transactional services for UK businesses involved in international trade will need a major overhaul. Services and guidance for the UK Trade Tariff will need wholesale review and EU sponsored services like the Maritime Single Window will also require change
  • But it won’t just be businesses involved in European trade that will be affected. The UK Government’s plan to negotiate individual trade agreements will see a whole range of changes to licensing, regulation and customs duties. This will mean a radical change in guidance from government to business
  • Brexit is rooted in concerns about a loss of sovereignty, driven by a perception of being bullied by Europe over domestic British concerns. This will result in fundamental changes to British law currently tied to EU law. The UK Government will need to scale up its resourcing to convey these legal changes for businesses
  • One of the key areas to be impacted will be migration. This no doubt was at the heart of Brexit. Businesses will need new advice on what to do if they employ staff from the European Union. And if seperate bilateral agreements are struck different regulations are likely to exist for their citizens requiring further guidance for employers.

Changes to the UK’s G2B services for businesses abroad

But Brexit won’t just be impacting on UK businesses. The flow on effect is immense:

  • The UK Department of Trade is likely to see a rapid injection of cash. This won’t just be for trade negotiators, but will also see a gearing up of digital information and services aimed at businesses outside the United Kingdom. This will be a result of new bilaterial agreements to attract trade and investment. But the big impact could come if the UK slashes corporate taxation to attract businesses with head offices on the continent to relocate to Britain
  • Of course with all these changes it won’t just be the UK Government who’ll need to update their guidance and services to business. Governments worldwide will need to change their digital services and information for businesses who deal with the UK. Understandably there will be major changes within the European Union, but the nature of the EU will take the pressure off individual states as changes are rolled out centrally. The same will occur for governments around the world as they update their advice to local businesses trading with the UK when Brexit occurs in 2019.

 

The impact of Brexit on the UK’s devolved governments and their G2B digital service delivery

If there weren’t enough wildcards in the Brexit deck of cards, how about these considerations for Government to Business services:

  • On both the trade and migration front, guidance will be necessary for businesses due to the shared border between Ireland and Northern Ireland (as part of the UK), particularly in the context of the Good Friday peace agreement. There are many issues that would need to be sorted out in the two years once Article 50 is enacted. The hard deadline mixed with a combination of deep issues and the fact that almost 56% of Northern Irelanders voted to remain in the EU will make it difficult informing affected businesses
  • But it’s the potential impact of Scottish independence that makes the mind boggle in ensuring businesses have access to the right information to trade and employ. Overwhelmingly in the Brexit referendum Scotland voted to remain in the EU (62% vs 38%) but with the UK as a whole now leaving Europe many Scots understandably feel the pretext of the 2014 independence referendum is null-in-void. A second - and successful - referendum could see many last minute changes to how Brexit would work and how to deal with a newly independent Scotland on the trade, customs and border control front. The impact alone on timely government guidance for any businesses hiring Scots or selling goods and services in Edinburgh and Glasgow would be immense. This needs to be factored into the thinking of governments both in Westminster and Holyrood.

Risks to the UK Government’s .gov.uk strategy

Aside from these risks the UK Government will also need to manage these changes in a customer-centric way while aligning with whole of government strategy:

G2B and Brexit: interplay between customer centricity, digital strategy and political agendas

The challenge for the UK’s G2B approach to Brexit is managing the interplay between customer centricity, digital strategy and political agendas.

  • Customer needs must be paramount in achieving a smooth Brexit transition for businesses. If dogmatic digital strategy continues there’s a real risk that businesses will miss out on valuable and much needed Brexit guidance. Likewise if delays or policy twists and turns due to political agendas this could significantly impact the customer experience and create major issues for businesses
  • Recent changes at the helm of the UK’s Government Digital Service and no current digital strategy, or a new one with unrealistic expectations, could impact on how Brexit is addressed for business. If political pressures push UK departments and agencies to act expediently to meet an appetite for accurate guidance for businesses, holistic government strategy may be jetisoned. One key aspect of this will be the need for government to not just provide general guidance but tailored advice to business owners. This is likely to happen through non-digital means and could see a further deterioration of the UK’s earlier attempt of “digital by default”
  • While it is unlikely political agendas will bend to digital strategy, it is more likely MPs in their constituencies dealing with their local business owners will have a big impact. Out on the High Street they will quickly be aware of information vaccuums or contradictions coming from UK departments and agencies about Brexit. This would see political agendas bending and accommodating for business concerns.

So while Article 50 is yet to be invoked, these issues will need to be on the UK Government’s radar as they progress on this two year journey. This is unchartered territory and no doubt slip ups will happen. It’s a case of how can the Government best plan and action Brexit while ensuring UK, European and businesses abroad get accurate and timely guidance.