EFS Brexit Seminar

On 2 February 2017 EFS, Erasmus University Rotterdam held its annual indirect tax-related seminar ‘Brexit: Consequences for Trade, VAT and Customs’. Academic experts and tax experts from international business and trade exchanged views on the possible consequences.

Speakers included the chairman prof. dr. René van der Paardt (EFS/ESE/AKD), prof. dr. Fabian Amtenbrink (ESL/College of Europe/EURO-CEFG), prof. dr. Thierry Charon (HUB/Loyens & Loeff/VAT Club), prof. dr. Walter de Wit (EFS/ESL/EY), em. prof. dr. Han Kogels (ESL), Marlon van Amersfoort (Shell), Werner Engelen (LEGO), Godfried Smit (EVO – Fenedex) and Huub Stringer (ABN AMRO).

EFS was very pleased by the high turnout at the seminar, the interesting talks by the main speakers, the inspiring panel discussion and debate and the good atmosphere.

Summary
After an introduction by the chairman, Professor René van der Paardt (EFS/ESE/AKD), the three main speakers addressed over 200 participants from more than 10 EU countries and working for consultants, government organisations, law firms, universities and the business world.

The first speaker, Professor Fabian Amtenbrink (ESL/College of Europe/EURO-CEFG), discussed the legal implications of Brexit, using facts and figures to show why the referendum turned out as it did and ‘leave voters’ were able to win a majority. The various legal opportunities (or lack of them) available under Article 50 TFEU were then explored, with Professor Amtenbrink explaining which agreements on future relations could and possibly would need to be entered into between the UK and the EU during the exit process and how these could be negotiated. Lastly he discussed the possible scenarios for future relationships between the UK and the EU, how likely each of these scenarios was and the implications of each of them individually.

Professor Thierry Charon (HUB/Loyens & Loeff/VAT Club) then went on to explain the consequences of the various scenarios from a VAT perspective, focusing specifically on the practical implications of the UK’s exit from the EU and explaining how Brexit could also result in some new opportunities in the field of VAT. These included the possibility for the UK to amend its VAT legislation to create opportunities for UK businesses by, for example, increasing the pro rata in certain situations.

The next speaker was Professor Walter de Wit (EFS/ESL/EY), who discussed Brexit from a customs perspective and explained how the customs law implications differed in each scenario. He explored the implications of the UK reverting to WTO rules, of opting to remain part of the Customs Union and of signing a free trade agreement with the EU. In doing so he referred specifically to the consequences for the origin rules, the administrative implications of Brexit and also the extent to which the UK can set its own customs tariffs in the various scenarios.

It was then time for Emeritus Professor Han Kogels (ESL) to integrate these talks in his role as chairman of the panel discussion. His introduction was followed by a discussion between panel members Godfried Smit (EVO), Werner Engelen (Lego), Marlon van Amersfoort (Shell) and Huub Stringer (ABN AMRO), who exchanged thoughts on Brexit from the perspective of a multinational. During this discussion participants in the audience also made their views known, with plenty of opportunity to engage with the panel and the main speakers. As well as technical discussions of tax issues, other Brexit-related implications for businesses were explored. One of the questions raised concerned why ‘leave voters’ were able to win a majority in the referendum. Wasn’t the vote an extremely irrational decision by angry citizens who felt their voices were not being heard? And would the referendum have turned out differently if it had been left up to businesses to decide? These and other questions at the seminar provoked lively, in-depth discussions.

More information

You can find more informationon the seminar and the hand-outs on the EFS website, where you can also view photos taken during the event. A report of the seminar will shortly be published in Weekblad voor fiscaal recht (in Dutch) and in EC Tax Review (in English).