Article 50 – what happened and what does it mean?

Adam Jackson Adam Jackson

Here is our quick take on the triggering of Article 50 and expert views from our Brexit webinar.

Theresa May has formally notified Donald Tusk, President of the EU Council, of the United Kingdom’s desire to leave European Union. 

This represents the first major step towards the UK's departure from the European Union (EU) and begins a two-year period of negotiation. Meanwhile the UK remains a full member of the EU, enjoying continued participation in the Single Market and remaining bound by the rules and obligations of membership.

The government’s vision for the UK outside the EU and negotiating position remains largely unchanged:

  • There was no guarantee of the rights of EU nationals in the UK – this remains one of the first issues on the agenda for negotiations
  • Theresa May’s call for transitional arrangements will reassure businesses looking to avoid any potential cliff-edges
  • Brexit looks set to boost devolution – the government expects to pass some newly inherited powers to the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

What does this mean for your organisation?

We gathered a panel of experts and asked them to explore Article 50’s implications for business and other organisations. Watch our webinar below.

Our panel of experts

Adam Jackson, Head of Public Affairs at Grant Thornton UK LLP
Monique Beaulieu, Head of Reward Advisory Services at Grant Thornton UK LLP
Andrew Hood, International and EU Law Senior Director at Dechert LLP law firm 
Oliver Bridge, Business consulting adviser at Grant Thornton UK LLP

Key points from our experts on Brexit

  • If you haven’t started planning, begin now by mapping and evaluating your touchpoints with the EU
  • Negotiations will begin soon and organisations have a unique opportunity to shape what happens
  • Two years is unlikely to be long enough to finalise a full deal given the divergent starting positions of the UK and EU. If a deal is not reached the question will turn to how government intends to bridge any gaps

It is clear that the uncertainty is set to remain and businesses must deal with this. The UK for example has a different view of how the negotiations will work compared to the EU. The EU believe that the ‘divorce’ must be negotiated before the future relationship to replace it, while the UK want to deliver both in the two years,” says Andrew Hood, International and EU Law Senior Director at Dechert LLP law firm.

A survey of the webinar audience found that this lack of clarity meant nearly two-thirds hadn’t yet begun planning for Brexit. Our panel agreed that there are things businesses can start doing now. First and foremost, understand your exposure to any potential changes. Oliver Bridge, Business consulting adviser at Grant Thornton, suggested “mapping and evaluating your EU touchpoints.” Andrew added that firms need to consider the “nuts and bolts: review contracts, check jurisdictional issues and ensure patents are registered in the right way.”

Turning to the subject of Brexit-proofing your business, Oliver suggested businesses consider and plan for a range of possible outcomes, “be proactive, think about the scenarios you might face and then think about the actions you can take to mitigate the risks”. On the matter of skills, Monique Beaulieu, Head of Reward Advisory Services at Grant Thornton UK LLP advised employers to take a long-term strategy by re-engaging domestic sources of talent. She suggested that businesses act now and take advantage of the apprenticeship levy to upskill current workforces and reducing reliance on foreign labour.

It wasn’t all about minimising risk. The panel also wanted to highlight some of the opportunities presented by Brexit. Monique emphasised the rise in organisations getting involved in shaping training schemes. Businesses are already looking to the future: We are seeing employers starting to engage with training and educational institutions to really ensure young people are coming through with the skills they are going to need in the future.” The government’s industrial strategy was also seen as a great opportunity for businesses to engage in helping shape a Vibrant Economy for the UK outside the EU. 

If you would like to discuss the impact of Brexit on your organisation get in touch.

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