What legal support do start-ups need to prepare for a no-deal Brexit?

What legal support do start-ups need to prepare for a no-deal Brexit?

Recently, Tech Nation released guidance for start-ups on how to prepare for, and what to expect in the event of, a no-deal Brexit scenario. The advice covers the top ten aspects of your business that you will want to protect, or actively work to secure, in the as-yet fairly unknowable waters of the UK’s position with Europe after 31st October.

Some of the actions Tech Nation recommends involve speaking with a legal team, and we agree – securing certain parts of your business to avoid falling foul of potential future obligations will put you in a much better position than doing nothing at all. In fact, it might give you the opportunity to conduct some much-needed audits of the position of your business.

The top ten actions recommended by Tech Nation are on the topics of:

  1. Data protection and data flows
  2. Employment, immigration and visas
  3. Taxation and VAT
  4. The e-Commerce Directive
  5. The Digital Single Market Framework
  6. EU Legislation in Limbo
  7. Domain names
  8. Harmful, illegal, and terrorist content
  9. Geoblocking and cross-border content
  10. Horizon 2020 and R&D funding

Below, we look at some of these areas in more detail, and identify where Harper James Solicitors can offer support to your small business in regards to Brexit.

Data protection and data flows

It is highly likely that in some way or another you are receiving or sharing data with the EU. As we saw with the recent changes to GDPR, the way you handle the data in your organisation is becoming increasingly vital and worthy of investigation.

As Tech Nation’s document highlights, after the UK leaves the European Union, we will become a ‘third country’ to Europe’s data protection system, meaning that information received from Europe to the UK will require contract-based legal structures to replace the free flows of data we accept currently.

Some larger businesses already have these legal structures in place – but now we are faced with a situation where smaller businesses will need to thoroughly consider data flows.

Tech Nation suggests auditing your data and then taking action, such as updating documentation and reviewing your processes, to safeguard it.

The best way to feel reassured about these steps is to talk to a legal team whilst you carry them out. Our data protection experts can help you to understand what you need to do and why in order to make data transitions as smooth as possible.

Employment and immigration

Some of the biggest concerns about our process of leaving the EU are regarding travel, immigration and visas.

The Tech Nation guide gives advice for both EU workers currently living in the UK and UK citizens who live and work in Europe. As one of the key endorsement bodies for a number of types of visa, Tech Nation will be well-versed in the rules around the immigration process.

However, certain parts of the visa application process will require legal advice specifically tailored to your business, and you may want to have a wider-discussion about changes to your employment strategy and model further down the line, future-proofing for the new rules Brexit may bring. To have these discussions with our business immigration law experts, get in touch.

EU legislation and the digital single market strategy

The Tech Nation guide points out that the upcoming changes to digital law that were expected to come into place as a result of approval in the European Parliament are now at an uncertain stage.

As we don’t know the fate of the Digital Content Directive and the Digital Copyright Directive, one of the best ways to prepare your business for all eventualities is to read up on the topics. Our advice centre has helpful information pages and FAQs on both the digital single market strategy and the Digital Copyright Directive, so you can keep informed about the future.

EU domain names and your intellectual property

If you use an ‘.eu’ domain, after Brexit you will lose the right to your domain name, as we will no longer be in the EEA. If you hold one of these domains, you will be notified by your domain registrar a week before the UK leaves the EU, and to keep your domain you will need to update your contact data from an address in Britain to an address of a valid legal presence in any EU member state.

As stated in the Tech Nation guide, on 1st January 2020 your .eu domain will be immediately withdrawn. These significant consequences, coupled with the fact that registrars will then have no obligations to domain holders over the content stored on those sites, means you should seriously consider your domain and its content.

The domain removal may bring with it problems regarding intellectual property, and as such you would be best protected by speaking to specialist IP lawyers about how to relocate and protect your intellectual property.

Your content

Sections eight and nine in the Tech Nation guide focus on your content, especially where it is created and shared with the EU – essentially, you will need to take action to review your terms and conditions, processes and systems regarding content production. After we leave, EU businesses will be within their rights to treat UK customers differently, and for startups hosting user-generated content you may need to follow two different sets of rules for the UK and EU.

Reviewing your content and processes can present a big task, especially when there may be huge swathes of content at stake. To help ensure you continue to follow the correct rules for both locations, consult with a commercial lawyer, who can guide you through the changes and through the waters of Brexit uncertainty.

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