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Expanding to Europe? How to prepare for global expansion post-Brexit

Brexit has left many business owners feeling uncertain about their future, pushing global expansion into doubt. Many are, understandably, questioning how Britain's exit will affect the country's economy as well as trading laws, although there aren't many solid answers confirmed by the government.

Growing your business is a very exciting prospect, giving you the chance to introduce your services to a brand new market. If you're thinking of expanding to Europe but are wondering how to prepare in the best possible way, follow these tips.

Market research

Expanding to the EU is an exciting prospect, but you'll need to do your research before making any significant commitments regardless of Brexit. As well as doing some general background checks, you should head to the area to do some market research. It's hard to get a feel for the area without visiting in person; you'll want to check that it isn't overrun with competition before officially setting up shop.

There are still plenty of cheap flights to European countries, so make the most of it before any rules regarding travel change. While nothing regarding travel has been officially confirmed, it is thought that flight prices may go up and visiting EU countries will likely become harder.

As well as getting an insight into your competition, you can see if your businesses ethos matches the area and that your target audience have access to it. For example, you wouldn't set up a product aimed at university students if the great majority of residences were of a mature age.

Get planning now

Don't leave anything to the last minute and start planning your expansion ahead of time. While it's true that Brexit may make things more difficult and likely change up the system significantly, it's already a lengthy process. It currently takes 15 to 60 days to register a new entity in Europe, with brand new businesses being started from fresh having to wait 90 days before they can start trading.

This may change once Brexit has been set in stone, with the possibility of it being made even more difficult. Don't leave your application until the last minute and certainly don't expect to make fast progress if you do. Get moving now before it becomes trickier.

Staying aware of change

If you're feeling clueless, you're not alone - 54% of CEOs and CFOs said Brexit was at least one of the top three current sources of uncertainty surrounding their businesses. This number is sure to grow as the final date approaches - although even this isn't certain.

Staying aware of change is important, despite how confusing the situation is at the moment. One of the main things you should stay aware of is any changes to the single market or customs union, as this will affect the way you import and export products.

As of right now, those in the EU can freely trade their products and services to other European countries but must abide by regulations set out by the government.

While nothing has been decided and there will be a transitional period, it could become harder for UK companies to trade in this market. This includes the possibility of having to pay additional import taxes and duties as well as it taking longer for your products to be exported. Always stay aware of how this is changing in order to plan and budget your services properly rather than assuming things have stayed the same.

In the case of a no-deal Brexit, UK residents will potentially lose their EU citizen's rights and would instead be seen as a third country national. This will make it harder for British citizens to live and work in these countries for more than three months if they don't have a specific permit.

However, some countries - namely Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein - agreed that those currently living and working there will largely keep the same rights, so it's important to be aware of rules of individual countries as well as the EU as a whole.

Connectivity is vital

You've likely built up a database of contacts during your time in business and now is the time to make real use of them. According to a study by Santander, making connections with other businesses that have successfully expanded overseas is key to developing your company internationally.

As well as that, the study suggested that the government must do more to support SMEs that want to take their businesses into international markets. This includes raising awareness of the services offered by the likes of the Department for International Trade, who can provide in-depth advice on the topic.

Having a reliable governmental source is especially beneficial during these uncertain times. It can update you on how stable the market is, as well as having a page where you can get personal advice on business and Brexit.

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