The received wisdom when it came to Brexit was that the UK would pull back from the brink on the 23rd of June. Indeed, the betting markets showed ‘Remain’ with a 60%+ chance of winning all the way up to polling day.
Some of us though were not so sure. As a ‘Remain’ campaigner I heard a lot of negative sentiment on the doorstep, and as someone with a PR background, I was also aware of the wall of anti-EU noise pumped out by the popular press day in day out.
As a result I started looking for what you could call a Brexit insurance policy.
How could I keep my digital marketing business operating from within the EU if the worst happened? The solution was the Estonian e-Residency programme. I applied, and collected my smart card from the Estonian Embassy a few weeks before the referendum.
Almost six months on I have a company registered in Estonia that is up and running, and that runs in parallel to my UK business.
Having been through the whole process, for me it’s a no brainer. And here’s why:
1. It’s simple
You apply on the e-residency website (the cost is €100) and then the Estonian Police do a background check on you. Once you are approved, you collect your card and smartcard reader from your nearest Estonian Embassy.
That smart card allows you to then access all Government services remotely, such as setting up a company, which I did through LeapIN, who will handle all the details for you including providing you with a registered address .
I did have to travel to Estonia to set up my bank account with LHV, though as LeapIN did all the preparation work all I actually did was turn up at the bank with my passport, sign some documents and leave with my bank card.
However soon this requirement will be gone too. You can open up a bank account remotely meaning you’ll never even have to set foot in the country – unless you want to.
Once you’ve passed that step you are up and running.
2. It’s exceptionally cost-effective
Your Brexit insurance policy will cost you less than €300 once you factor in the e-Residency fee and the cost of registering and setting up the company.
To keep your company ticking over then starts from €59 per month including accounting, taxes and compliance. LeapIN even prepares the invoices for me.
It would be impossible to run a UK company for so little money – unless you want to spend hours doing it all yourself.
Overall running my Estonian business is cheaper and easier than running my UK business – by far.
3. It’s the future
Finally, I’ll admit it, one of the reasons why I applied for e-Residency was that it seemed shiny, new and kind of cool.
Isn’t it a great idea to be able to become a virtual resident of a country that you might never even visit, and to carry your business around with you everywhere in the world via a smart card?
There’s been a lot of talk about new virtual, borderless businesses, but this makes it a reality. And it’s no coincidence that other countries are now looking at copying the concept.
Back to Brexit. Assuming the UK does trigger article 50 in March we have two years of negotiations to live through. The noises coming from the pro Brexit lobby about wanting to leave the Single Market are not encouraging.
And even if we come out the other end with an acceptable agreement, I suspect British companies will still be at a disadvantage when pitching for business in Europe while the talks take place. After all, no potential customer will know what the status of their UK supplier will be post 2019.
As a result, based on what I’ve seen and experienced so far I’d ask the question – if you run a serviced based business in the UK that does extensive business in Europe why would you *not* want to do this?
Photograph by Guillaume Speurt