Meeting Mentor Magazine

June 2024

Will Brexit Break Your Meeting?

As the March 29 deadline for the U.K. to leave the European Union (EU) moved up to April 12 (and possibly beyond) with no apparent resolution in sight, meeting professionals with upcoming events in one of the four U.K. countries — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — had to deal with one of their least favorite challenges: uncertainty. Would the U.K. leave the EU with no exit plan? Would a new plan be approved after previous plans were struck down? Would the deadline be extended yet again? Would the U.K. hold another referendum on whether or not it wanted Brexit after all?

In any of those four scenarios, still more uncertainty is certain to arise as the U.K. scrambles to figure out what any of the options might mean to the nitty gritty of international travel and the shipment of goods across borders, both key issues for meeting planners as well.

“The first thing I would suggest in any scenario is for planners to have a conversation with their hotels and other suppliers,” said Joshua Grimes, Esq., (pictured at left) Grimes Law Offices in Philadelphia. “I am sure you won’t be the first to ask what their plan may be. While it may or may not work for your group, the best place to start is to ask how your vendors plan to handle it.”

Grimes’ other suggestions include:

• Communicate with your attendees. Let them know that you are working with your local on-the-ground partners to make sure everything to do with the meeting will go as smoothly as possible, whatever happens with Brexit. “Assure your attendees that you have a handle on it,” said Grimes.

• Consider asking meeting partners to accept payment in U.S. dollars or euros. “Because there will likely be uncertainty around the possibility of inflation for British currency until the situation is sorted out, you might want to consider paying in a more stable currency,” he said.

• Ship early, especially for meetings happening shortly after the Brexit deadline. Ship commercial goods, exhibit materials and other supplies early, said Grimes. “It’s better to store them there than to try to ship them during a time of flux.”

• Consider putting vendor and other third-party deposit funds in a non-U.K. bank to ensure accessibility.

• Have a comprehensive emergency plan in place. “If your meeting is just after the Brexit date, it’s even more important than usual to have emergency planning done,” said Grimes. In addition to the usual reasons, there’s also a possibility of demonstrations or unrest, depending on how Brexit is (or is not) carried out. “Work with your vendors on what to do if there are communications issues, safe ways to get around if there were to be demonstrations in the streets, etc.”

• Recommend that employees and attendees purchase trip cancellation and interruption insurance. “This is always a good idea, but particularly in a situation where a change in plans may become necessary,” he said.

• Think about the General Data Protection Regulation. Does GDPR still apply post-Brexit? “I think you have to assume that you still will have to comply with GDPR, but there’s no certainty around that right now,” Grimes said.

• Recommend that attendees coming from the U.K. to an ex-U.K. meeting confirm their plans and make payments a few days in advance to make sure there are no issues between banks in the U.K. and vendors in the meeting locale. And be sensitive to the fact that your U.K.–based attendees may need more flexibility due to their changing situation.

Also, while Brexit likely won’t rise to the level of force majeure, it’s worth checking your contractual language. As Grimes pointed out, “I don’t know if anything from Brexit is making the performance of a meeting contract illegal or impossible. However, if you have ‘inadvisable’ or ‘commercially impractical’ in your force majeure clause, it may be a possibility.” — Sue Pelletier

Note: Opening image by Stefan Schweihofer from Pixabay

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About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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