Contractors' Questions: How might Brexit affect me as a contractor?
Contractor’s Question: If the UK votes to leave the European Union on June 23rd – a Brexit, what would change if I went to live in an EU country? I’m a UK citizen running my own freelance business and I’d like to continue contracting in whichever EU country I move to.
Expert’s Answer: The European Union was founded around four central tenets: the free movement of people, capital, goods and labour. This latter point means UK nationals are entitled to freelance in any of the 27 other member states without the need for a work permit or visa. If Britain votes ‘leave’ on June 23rd, however, this will no longer be the case.
Currently, each EU country has its own rules, but the major economies like France and Germany require new independent professionals to prove their businesses will be economically beneficial. Non-EU freelancers must also prove they won't require financial support of any kind to operate. It's possible UK citizens will be subject to the same rules, although the UK could perhaps negotiate ‘special deals’ with some countries to fast-track the process.
Potentially less positively for you, using a UK bank account could become a little more complicated if we leave. This is because another of the four founding EU principles, the right to move capital freely, would also cease to apply and so freelance contractors such as you could be hit with unexpected charges for fees paid into a UK account from within the EU.
In addition, the cost of travelling to and from an independent UK has also been questioned. Travel experts have pointed out that the UK currently benefits from an ‘open skies agreement’ allowing airlines to fly wherever they want in the EU. This may well remain the case - but nobody knows for sure.
Yet if we do choose to leave, there could be benefits for freelancers and contractors who remain in the UK. We could take back control over the rules some businesses find troublesome - the Agency Workers Regulations, for example.
The expert was Simon McVicker, director of external affairs at IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed.