people walking in protest in streets of Great Britain

Jun 20, 2017 9:00:00 AM | Field Services 🇬🇧 The Brexit’s Looming Effects on Global IT Deployments

While the clock is still ticking down to the official exit, early 2019 looms large on the horizon for businesses with locations in Europe and the U.K.

The referendum vote of 2016, known as the Brexit, has created a lot of uncertainty among residents of both the United Kingdom and continental Europe. The process of the U.K. formally removing itself from the European Union began at the end of March 2017, and now citizens and businesses are beginning to learn just how it will affect them and their plans for the future.

The drastic shift from the free movement principle of the E.U. complicates many business matters, including European IT projects. Since the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, member countries of the E.U. allowed their citizens and corporations to live in, work in and conduct business with other member countries freely. The Brexit has caused the fifth-largest economy in the world be more closed off to the rest of the European continent, and it may be followed by referendums in other countries in continental Europe after their own meaningful elections to come.

Keep Calm and Carry On

But the specific uncertainty surrounding the Brexit has not been dispelled just because Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon has been triggered. The United Kingdom has two years to work out a deal with the European Union to define the parameters of its exit, meaning it may not be until March of 2019 that the Brexit is official and all the effects—particularly those on intracontinental and international business—are known.

What this means, for now, is that companies with roots in the United Kingdom must begin planning for future restrictions now. While the clock is still ticking down to the official exit, early 2019 looms large on the horizon for businesses with locations in Europe and the U.K. 

We don’t know much yet…

At this early stage, uncertainty is the predominant term regarding the Brexit. Chief among the question marks surrounding it is the fate of 2.8 million European Union nationals currently living or working full-time in Britain.

How the U.K. will handle their current presence and their potential relocation is going to be a consistent topic of this summer’s Brexit negotiations. It’s likely that, no matter how lenient a final judgement on this may be, the talent pool of IT technicians and professionals in the United Kingdom will be thinned significantly.

Furthermore, no one knows quite yet how strict the United Kingdom’s regulatory barriers will be with regards to data sharing and protection. This variable could have a serious effect on IT deployments. Adhering to legislation like the proposed Investigatory Powers Act could make the scope, scale and cost of U.K. projects more complex than identical ones in continental Europe.


…But we know it’s going to get more difficult

Regardless of how current E.U. nationals living in the U.K. are handled in the withdrawal negotiations, the certain loss of the free movement principle is inevitably going to make coordinating Europe-wide IT deployments a great deal more difficult. TechUK reported that almost 17 percent of IT talent working in Britain were E.U. nationals over the last six years.

Even if the British government chooses to be generous with issuing visas for foreign tech workers, competition for the available talent will be stiff. EU-based technicians won’t be able to be deployed to the U.K. on short notice, thus placing a crunch on availability. Visa approvals and work permits will likely be issued at a slower pace. And, perhaps most telling, foreign IT techs are cooling on the idea of trying to work in the U.K. at all, as Hired’s research has shown an immediate 50 percent drop in non-British talent accepting jobs in the U.K. since the referendum vote took place.

Plan, but don’t panic

IT integrators and field service coordinators operating in Europe will need to keep one eye on the British news media, like every other international industry. Even with all the uncertainty, the clear deadline for the United Kingdom’s official separation from the European Union provides a hard target to plan around.

If you’re planning tech upgrades or installations, consider accelerating the timeline to take advantage of the dying days of free movement between the E.U. and U.K. You shouldn’t rush to implement an incomplete strategy, of course, but prioritize U.K. deployments while the acquisition and management of technicians is unfettered.

Also, keep an eye on various financial elements, between the effect of tariffs on importing materials to the U.K. for IT projects and currency fluctuations that can complicate billing and paying in local currency. IT field service providers will need to take on a greater advisory role with their clients and be a resource for answering questions about the differences between deployments in the next year and a half versus in 2019.

The World War II-era British slogan of “keep calm and carry on” has a modern and slightly ironic relevance to international tech projects in this post-Brexit world. The way field service providers coordinate E.U. and U.K. deployments will get more complicated, but being attentive to developments in the exit negotiations and mapping them to clients’ long-term IT goals will allow integrators to continue providing solutions and managed outcomes without a decline in quality.


Chad Mattix

Written By: Chad Mattix

A global IT executive experienced in establishing strategic partnerships for large U.S.-based organizations, Chad Mattix specializes in managed services, contract pricing and negotiation, and the startup and growth of technology services companies. Chad has spent the last 15 years helping large U.S. retailers and U.S.-based IT service providers expand their capabilities across the globe to follow their clients’ expansions. He has developed and completed full entity formations in Brazil and China and has worked with sales pursuit teams in messaging and client-facing presentations. He has also established global alliance and partnership models for multiple global IT organizations. Chad travels around the world to develop and maintain long-term relationships with employees, clients, vendors and partners, which are critical for success.