The United Kingdom (UK) has a population of 67.1 million and is the fifth largest economy1 in the world in 2020. The UK comprises of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. According to the World Bank, the UK is eighth in the 2019 Ease of Doing Business ranking, and the second easiest European country to do business with. As the top destination for foreign direct investment in Europe, the UK market welcomes thousands of overseas businesses every year.
The UK is also Singapore’s fourth largest European trading partner, with bilateral trade in goods valued at S$16.8 billion in 2020. Bilateral ties and cross-border business collaborations remain healthy, with G2G initiatives such as the Singapore-UK FinTech Bridge to develop and encourage collaboration between the fintech sectors in both countries.
UK companies are increasingly eager to look outside the EU for overseas business and investment opportunities. No matter which sector and industry your business is in, Singapore businesses can tap UK companies’ strong capabilities to develop partnerships for international expansion.
Singapore and the UK share a common working language, and similar legal, accounting, and political systems. This makes it easier for Singapore companies to do business in the UK. With a highly skilled and educated English-speaking workforce, you will not have problems understanding and dealing with your British counterparts when you set up your business in the UK.
Following Brexit, the UK has maintained that it remains open for business and is increasingly willing to work with international partners.
In 2017, Singapore and the UK renewed the bilateral Economic and Business Partnership, staying the course for greater economic cooperation and new business opportunities in both countries.
Singapore shares common interest with the UK in ensuring business continuity and are like-minded partners on free and open trade. To that end, Singapore and the UK signed a Free Trade agreement which came into force on 11 February 2021.
That said, it pays to ready a contingency plan if you have EU workers in the UK. Monitor EU trade agreements closely to see how supply chains or sales of goods and services in the common market can affect you. Property prices in the UK has fallen by 10-20%, especially in prime business areas. This is an opportunity for Singapore businesses, which now have more leverage with landlords to secure prime locations.
Enterprise Singapore maintains close ties with the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT), the main government agency that facilitates inward investment into the UK and creates high-growth industries. DIT can provide tools and advice to help your company expand into the UK, through guidance on tax and immigration, industry insights on UK sectors, and highlights of high-potential opportunities within UK regions.
DIT also provides your company with insights into the UK’s business environment. Find out more here.
The UK government has released guidance on moving goods into, out of and through Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland). Information pertaining to movement of goods into, out of and through Northern Ireland will be released subsequently.
Singapore companies are encouraged to appoint a courier service provider, freight forwarder or customs agent to deal with customs matters, which you may refer to in our ‘In-Market Consultant’ list. Your company should take note if you are required to obtain an of the requirement of an ‘Economic Operators Registration and Identification number’ (EORI number) and you are advised to check on applicable customs duties and VAT.
For companies importing goods from the EU to Great Britain, you can refer to a step-by-step guide at this link.
For companies exporting goods from Great Britain to the EU, you can refer to a step-by-step guide here.
The UK has announced that the UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) marking will be a new UK product marking for goods placed in the market in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland). The UKCA marking can be used from 1 January 2021, and businesses which are using CE marking for their products will be given time to adjust until 1 January 2022 for most products. Further details can be found here.
For medical devices, from 1 January 2021, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will take on the responsibilities for the UK medical devices market. All medical devices have to be registered with the MHRA. For these products, CE marking will continue to be recognised in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) until 30 June 2023. However, after the end of the transition period, the EU will no longer recognise UK Notified Bodies. If you are a manufacturer based outside of the UK and wish to place a device on the Great Britain market, a UK Responsible Person will have to be appointed. Further details can be found here.
If you are a Singapore company operating in the UK with European citizens as employees, do note that EU, EEA or Swiss Citizens may apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to stay in the UK after 30 June 2021. Find out more here.