On the 23 June 2016, the UK held a referendum on its membership of the European Union (EU) – known as the ‘Brexit vote’. The result was 52% for leave, and 48% remain – which means the UK will now leave the EU.
So what does that mean, and how might it impact online retail?
While it may seem slightly unhelpful, the honest answer is that it is just too early to say as there are so many outstanding questions.
Indeed, there is even some doubt as to whether the decision to leave will be upheld. Some politicians have suggested holding a second referendum or even overruling the vote, although in reality that seems unlikely.
There is also the fact that the UK has not yet given official notice to the EU about its intention to leave (by activating Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty), or confirmed when that will happen. When it does happen, a two-year time limit will be triggered by the end of which the UK will cease to be a member of the EU.
The prime minister David Cameron, who campaigned to remain, resigned the day the vote results were announced and will stand down in October 2016. This also brings a lot of uncertainty as it is unclear who will be leading negotiations with the EU over trade.
So – although much of the exact detail is still to be decided, some key areas of concern for online retailers are already clear.
Probably the most immediate and pressing of these is the potential impact on shopper confidence – and whether it will experience a short- or long-term decline.
There have also been some sharp currency fluctuations, with the pound falling to a 30-year low following the announcement of the referendum result – clearly this has a deep impact on the attractiveness or otherwise of imports and exports. Again, the longer-term trends are hard to predict.
Less immediate but also important will be what regulations are put in place governing cross-border trade into EU countries. At present there are a series of EU directives covering key topics relevant to cross-border selling such as consumer rights and data protection.
For now however, little has actually changed – the UK will remain a member of the EU for at least two years and possibly longer. The detail around what happens from there will become clearer in time.