The UK will leave the European Union in just over a year’s time on 29 March 2019 (at 11pm!), in the absence of an agreement to defer the separation. It seems probable there will be a 21-month transitional period (until 31 December 2020), during which EU laws will continue to apply and business will have to adapt to a post-Brexit world.

To date, the UK and the EU have provisionally agreed on three issues: how much the UK owes the EU, what happens to the Northern Ireland border and what happens to UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK.

Unless the UK has a change of heart about leaving the EU, the most likely scenario is a “Canada-style” trade agreement – an arrangement similar to the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA). Possibly, this might include additional measures concerning financial services and some sort of fudge over reconciling the arrangement with the absence of border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has set “red lines” against remaining in the Single Market and any customs union with the EU.

The Scottish National Party advocates the “Norway” solution of remaining outside the EU but within the Single Market. As Norway is outside any customs union with the EU, however, this outcome would not deliver a border-free Ireland.

Although we are still unclear as to what the arrangement will actually look like after the negotiations, businesses and in particular HR professionals need to continue to monitor the situation closely and assess the likely impacts of Brexit on their workforces.
The questions immediately arising include:
• Do you have in place adequate means of tracking the twists and turns of negotiations and the potential impact of developments on your business?
• Have you considered what support might be given to your EU migrant workforce and their families?
• How will stricter controls on EU migration affect your business and do you have plans to hire or train local workers to fill any gaps?
• Do you have British employees working in Europe who might be affected by Brexit?
• Do you have the skills in your organisation to meet new requirements that are likely to arise after Brexit? For example, will you need HR staff skilled in dealing with an increased number of staff subject to immigration controls? Do you have people who will have capacity to manage new customs rules that will probably apply in trading with the EU?
• Are there any specific implications of Brexit for your business? For instance, do you have a UK-based European Works Council and, if so, do you have plans to change its location post-Brexit?

While it is difficult to answer many of these questions given the current state of uncertainty, it is important for them to stay high of the HR agenda.
For further information, please contact Koichiro Nakada – Head of Japan Business Group ( and Yoko Nakada - Senior Associate, Deputy Head of Japan Business Group (
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