The UK is the number one destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Europe - second in the world only to the USA. The UK welcomes foreign investment and is highly regarded as an easy country in which to do business. The UK also has an international reputation for stability and consistency in its common law and governance.
The UK ranked sixth in the World Bank's 2016 Doing Business report; the highest placed of the G7 group. A rise from eighth to sixth reflects a number of reforms enacted by the government to make doing business easier, including a reduction in the headline corporation tax rate, efforts to decrease employers' national insurance bills and establishment of strong trade ties with emerging markets; this is outlined in more detail in the Trade chapter.
Key facts about starting a business in the UK:
While establishing a business and investing in the UK is a transparent and straightforward process, it is important to understand the nuances of any local customs. The manner in which people conduct business in the UK may differ from the home countries of investors. Furthermore, variations on these distinctions may exist in different regions of the UK and the industry in which a company operates.
Over 300 languages are spoken across the UK. However, English is the official and most predominantly spoken; it is the common business language. Dress codes in the workplace are typically formal; nevertheless, this will vary according to industry. It is also becoming increasingly common for workers to dress in a more 'smart casual' manner.
Punctuality is important and individuals may typically arrive early for business meetings. A handshake is the typical greeting for a new introduction and business cards may be exchanged at the beginning or the end of the meeting. Gift giving is not common as part of British business etiquette. Furthermore, company policies are likely to prohibit the provision or acceptance of gifts, in line with anti-money laundering and anti-bribery policies - discussed further in the Legal overview section.
Those looking to establish a business in the UK will often look to countries across Europe as alternative options. While membership of the EU ensures parity in many aspects of the legal, Tax and Audit regimes, the UK can be differentiated on the following factors:
Despite the many benefits of the UK business environment, Britain’s decision to leave the EU will cause uncertainty in the coming years. 'Brexit' has the potential to reduce the attractiveness of the UK as a gateway to Europe, as well as detach the UK from important tax regimes, such as that under the Parent-Subsidiary Directive, which provides favourable tax treatment to member states. In the coming years, the UK will be required to renegotiate much of its trade, employment and tax legislation.
This guide has been developed to provide businesses with an overview of the UK, its legal regime, start-up and market entry considerations, tax and customs requirements and a general summary of the factors that may affect the decision to do business in the UK. However, the information contained in this document is generic in nature and you should not act or rely on it without obtaining specific professional advice.
Please note that the Country Guides may only be available in English.
|2||HM Revenue & Customs|
|3||Information Commissioner's Office|
|4||National Crime Agency|
|5||UK Visas and Immigration|
|6||Intellectual Property Office|
|7||UK Trade & Investment|
|8||Department for International Trade|
|9||UK Export Finance|
|10||Department for Work & Pensions|
|1||No.1 Destination for FDI|
|2||Doing Business Rankings|
|3||Visa Stats/Infrastructure Projects|
|5||Over 300 Languages Spoken|
|6||UK 5th Largest Economy|
|7||Predicted to overtake Germany to become the largest Western European economy around 2030|
|8||More companies locate their European headquarters in the UK than anywhere else in Europe|
|9||Labour Force Size|
|10||No.1 rated major European economy for global talent|
|11||Lowest employer social security contributions among the EU’s five largest economies|
Download Country Guide - UK (2.07MB, PDF)
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