Tim Hames, director general of the BVCA, said that the trade body has set up a task force of 20 people to map out possible Brexit scenarios and the different issues that may occur for the industry as a result, he said, adding the task force would focus on legal, regulatory and tax issues.
The BVCA is currently “talking to everyone in the government that is available to talk to”, Hames said, but added that the association was not lobbying for certain Brexit policies. At the moment, the BVCA’s efforts are more of an “intelligence-gathering exercise”, he said. “There’s not a proper Ministry of Brexit yet. It’s all a bit phony [until] article 50 is triggered.”
Hames said that one of the biggest issues facing the buyout industry that needs to be “clarified as soon as possible” was uncertainty about whether EU nationals would be allowed to remain in the UK following the country’s departure from the EU.
He said that of the roughly 10,000 private equity professionals in the UK, an estimated 25% to 30% were EU nationals. However he added that “the problem is much larger” when taking into account private equity portfolio companies.
“Private equity have a disproportionately large [number of] investments in restaurants and other consumer businesses and they rely on a large number of EU nationals that come here,” he said, adding that for businesses like Bridgepoint-owned sandwich store Pret a Manger it could have “a huge impact”.
Hames said that anyone that has lived in Britain for longer than five years currently has the right to become a permanent resident and should not be concerned, but that there were still many unanswered questions about freedom of movement.
The BVCA will be “disappointed” if it doesn’t have any clarification about freedom of movement before Christmas, he said: “Lots of people in the business community are making the same point.”
He added that if the government doesn’t provide clarity around this, many people from the business community would be “relatively annoyed”.
Meanwhile, Invest Europe, the trade body for European private equity firms, said it has been helping members to understand the implications of Brexit. Michael Collins, who is due to become CEO in October, said in an email that Invest Europe has been talking to members about Brexit and was working closely with the BVCA, French trade body AFIC and German trade body the BVK.