Next week I’ll moderate a roundtable of global corporate legal leaders from Belgium, UK, Netherlands and Germany. We’re gathering in Brussels to discuss:
- Steps legal functions are taking to prepare for regulatory change even though much is uncertain;
- Ideas on how companies maintain a dialog with regulators on EU minus UK and other issues;
- Concerns global counsel leaders’ have for areas of their business that may be most affected by Brexit and potential political risks in Europe.
I’ll report back on our discussion. Compared to 6 months ago, in-house legal and compliance leaders have learned from each other and gotten more clear about their approaches to Europe without the UK. Uncertainty reigns, but most companies have begun preparing by considering various scenarios and forecasting the impact of potential outcomes.
What Global In-House Counsel Most Want to Know
To advise their stakeholders effectively, corporate counsel leaders like to know how others are managing what are often similar challenges. Their business colleagues ask them about the impact on commercial transactions, and on employees, suppliers and customers in relation to:
- Data transfer
- Impact on a U.K.-domiciled workforce and a EU-domiciled workforce
- Movement of capital
- Movement of people and goods
- Foreign exchange aspects
Corporate counsel realize they are looking for answers where none yet exist. They’ll settle for some direction to share with their managers and board of directors, as investment decisions are made and performance forecasts adjusted.
Where Global In-House Counsel Agree on Brexit
Nine months after the Brexit vote stunned many, corporate legal and compliance leaders are comfortable to have fewer “unknown unknowns.” There’s a good level of consensus that London’s future as a financial center is unclear, and that immigration and visa restrictions are a key concern. Many businesses have been able to get far more specific about the potential impact of Brexit on their UK and Europe activities.
The lion’s share of questions are still unanswered, which makes companies nervous—and particularly their legal and compliance counsel. But they have learned to proceed with a lack of clarity on many questions stakeholders have for them.
Why a Pro-Global Outlook Causes Uncertainty
With social, economic and political issues driving how businesses are regulated today, there’s legitimate reason for concern. Global companies find that their outlook is often different than those governing their largest markets. In-house legal leaders agree that multinationals have a common interest to operate transnationally. It’s no surprise that across Europe and beyond, they are concerned about the barriers and complexities that Brexit may bring to distributing goods and services.
As Brexit regulation evolves, Martin Coleman, co-head of regulatory affairs at Norton Rose Fulbright in London, suggests that companies should provide as much input as possible. Many regulatory agencies and government leaders want to better understand the impact of various decisions, he says. Much of that input is coming from trade associations, and when corporate positions do not align, they will want to make sure their position is understood by those negotiating Brexit terms.
The Brussels roundtable on March 22, 2017 is organized by the Global Counsel Leaders Circle and hosted by Norton Rose Fulbright. Hendrik Bourgeois, General Counsel for GE Europe and Jay Modrall, Norton Rose Fulbright partner, are discussion leaders. Leigh Dance will facilitate, as Executive Director of the Global Counsel Leaders Circle.