What did we learn from our Brexit e-Retail Forum?

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Author: Andy Mulcahy, Editor, eCommerce Worldwide & IMRG

On 21st September, eCommerce Worldwide and IMRG held a small interactive forum for senior retailers, designed to discuss the practical implications of Brexit on cross-border eCommerce.

We welcomed experts from Bond Dickinson, World First, Global-e, Computop, Metapack, WNdirect and arvato to share their insights on what impact the Brexit vote may have on the economy, payments, VAT, legal framework, delivery and duties.

Here are some key takeaways...

So far, there has been very little negative impact from the data that IMRG tracks - the economic meltdown that was forecast has failed to materialise. In fact, many of the economic indicators have been quite positive.

What have IMRG seen?

Online sales revenue growth holding up well:

  • +18% - June, July and August average

Record highs for the percentage of orders going cross-border:

  • 27.3% - June, July and August average

What retailers are telling us:

  • In days following vote, there was some disruption to sales
  • Since then, things seem to have recovered well
  • Many have also seen increases in international sales (from .co.uk site)

What do Retailers think about Brexit?

The four phases of Brexit

Although there has been little impact so far, we must remember that Brexit is a long-term decision which has not really properly begun yet.


There are four significant phases that we might identify that could lead to sudden shifts in shopper, business and investor confidence:

  • The decision – already taken, and thus far things have held up well generally
  • The countdown begins – when Article 50 is triggered. 2-year timeframe for leaving
  • The negotiations – likely be a long drawn-out process. Decisions around free movement, access to the single market etc
  • The parting – the actual point at which the UK officially leaves the EU

Brexit Checklist

What impact might Brexit have on specific areas of eCommerce?


Legal framework

  • 3,000+ EU regulations and directives may require review
  • All EU legislation applies until the UK officially leaves
  • Must also comply with any new legislation coming into force before we leave – such as GDPR
  • Consider impact on existing contractual obligations negotiated post-referendum or during period when potential for Brexit was known


  • De minimis rate may be reviewed - currently €22 for EU imports
  • No duty or tax is charged on goods shipped below that rate
  • To compare – duty threshold is USD $800 per consignment in the US
  • Any trade agreement likely to include import tariffs and any documentation required (commercial invoices etc)

Payments & VAT Compliance

  • In relation to payment processing, one big likely change will be to licensing and passporting
  • UK is required to comply with the EU’s VAT regime but this may change depending on negotiations
  • UK is likely to operate a parallel VAT system for a period so companies don’t become overburdened with implementing changes
  • Any added complexity may put off SMEs and even lead to geo-blocking

In essence, it is too early to say what is going to happen with any serious degree of confidence – but things may possibly start to become clearer as we move into 2017.


Watch this space...


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