Last month, the United Kingdom left the European Union, ending a 47-year partnership. I’m from one of the remaining EU countries, Sweden, but I call the UK home.
Like most Europeans, I was disappointed to learn of the UK’s Brexit decision. As one of the strongest entities on the global stage, it felt like Sweden’s national football team losing Zlatan Ibrahimović. Everyone across the EU was shocked, and even after the vote, thought it would never actually happen.
I personally think that the EU as a concept is generally a good thing. I understand there are frustrations with giving away power and potentially having less of a say in key issues, but I'm a believer in doing things together rather than as separate entities.
However, as a tech entrepreneur, I’m excited for the UK and think Brexit will ultimately be beneficial for its economy. Regardless of their legal parameters, the UK is, and will continue to be, one of the most amazing and interesting markets you can operate in.
Start-ups and scale-ups from Europe and the rest of the world will continue to work with the UK given the vast opportunity for us all. With even more power now residing with Boris Johnson’s team, I’m sure the government will continue to encourage innovation in Britain. This month, a consultation will be launched on the legalisation of e-scooters on UK roads, an example of ministers changing laws to allow new tech that can potentially positively impact society. Whilst there are still many challenges around micro-mobility, this is an example of the UK positioning itself to welcome entrepreneurship, encouraging necessary disruption.
Karma, the business I run with my co-founder Elsa Bernadotte, originated in Sweden and now operates in 225 cities across Europe. We haven’t seen any potential issues for a business such as ours yet, nor have any businesses in our network. That’s not to say there won’t be, however. It all depends on what legislation and trade agreements are put in place, but I believe that the government will do everything in their power to limit any restrictions imposed on UK companies by Brexit. Even if the EU is hurt by Brexit, it makes sense to keep good trade relations as that's usually beneficial both ways.
One concern we do have is that as a business operating across the continent, with staff of various nationalities, is travel and border control. Right now, as a Swede, I can wake up in Paris and be in London for breakfast by train. It’s important that this flow of human traffic is still as smooth and easy as it is today to continue that strong working environment.
Naive or not, I don't know anyone in the start-up space who has taken steps to ensure a smooth Brexit process. I think there are far too many unknowns right now. However, some things might actually get simpler for fast-growth businesses after Brexit. With Karma, we attempted to launch in the UK from afar, without truly setting up everything we needed. This caused us a few challenges, which were only resolved when we opened a permanent office with dedicated staff. We cost ourselves a few months of work but after Brexit, companies may have to commit to a full local and legal setup to work in the UK, which for some types of companies could be for the best.
Brexit has been going on now since the decision was taken in June 2016. Whether it’s liked or not, wanted or not, I’m sure that most people will be glad the uncertainty is over. No one can prosper when we’re simply not sure what is going to happen next. It has been a massive distraction on a global stage but I’m positive that no one will want, nor let, the UK suffer, and will see this as an opportunity where everyone can work together as one happy, albeit divorced, family.
- Hjalmar Ståhlberg Nordegrens is the CEO of Karma, an app striving to achieve zero food waste.
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