EAG Roadmap to Conquering Brexit

In February 2019, Interel Association Management EU joined its partner visit.brussels in London to present the recent changes in the Belgian legislation to the international public. During that seminar, Benita Lipps, Head of Association Management at Interel EU, presented the relevant steps that any association should take into account to prepare for Brexit.

If one thing about Brexit has become certain, it is this: nothing is certain. When will it happen? Will it be soft or hard? What will be the implications on cross-border trade, access to EU funding, employment? No one really knows. While this uncertainty can easily lead to paralysis, associations with a stake in European collaboration can not afford to just wait it out. It may not be the time to act, but it certainly is the time to analyse, get informed and create contingency plans.

All European associations we work with – no matter where they are located – are creating strategies to remain “European+UK”  making sure that they won’t lose members, partners, funding or sponsors. We call this the EAG Roadmap to conquering Brexit: audit, evaluate, gear-up.

Audit: The audit phase allows associations to assess the impact of Brexit on their mission, members, strategy & operations. It is a time to check if wording needs to be changed in the statutes, mission or member terms (e.g. when these refer to the ‘members of the European Union’). It is an opportunity to review the member value proposition and member services (e.g. when needs concerning information on Brexit and demands for partner brokerage increase). Lastly, it is a tool to review how sources of income (membership, grants) are impacted. This goes beyond eligibility of funding, but can also relate to issues such as fluctuating exchange rates or increasing transfer costs.

Evaluate: Once risks and needs for change have been identified, it is time to evaluate what’s possible – and what’s feasible: Even though legally possible, not every UK-based European association is willing to move their headquarters across the channel. Even though statutes can be changed, the timing and the reluctance of key stakeholders may make it difficult to do so within a limited timeframe. We advise our associations that there is not just ‘the one’ solution, but many different options when it comes to remaining European. For instance: Associations may choose to create a legal entity in a new country, create a branch, open a representation, or simply partner with a ‘sister association’ in the European Union. If EU government relations are of key importance, an association may rent offices and hire staff in Brussels, make use of an address in a business centre, or benefit from the facilities of a Belgian member. Whatever the outcomes of Brexit are: a thorough evaluation ensures that options, their implications, benefits and risks, costs and timeline are well known.

Gear-Up: Once associations have developed their roadmap and contingency plans, it is time to prepare for implementation. Here, the most important task is to identify internal champions and external partners that ensure that the transition runs smoothly and efficiently. In associations, the best plans can fail if they are not supported by the people that matter. Cultivating internal champions – such as board members, funders, advocacy partners and key members – will help to effectively drive change within the association. At the same time, it’s essential to find the right partners that can help you implement these changes on an operational level. Your ‘Brexit Team’ is likely to include legal and financial advisors with detailed know-how of the relevant markets. If you plan to spend more time at a new location, you are also advised to find local experts – like local members & peers, ‘sister’ associations, association bureaus, recruitment agencies – that can provide you with deep local insights into how things really work. Association management companies (AMC) such as Interel offer a gateway and a one-stop-shop to such know-how. We’re here to work with you on a Brexit Roadmap that allows European associations to remain European – no matter what Brexit brings.

Read the full article on the website of visit.brussels here.