Country GuideUK

From Global Connections

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:

  • It takes approximately 13 days to start a new business in the UK; start-up fees are minimal; this process is detailed in the 'Doing Business in' chapter
  • 98 per cent of skilled worker visa requests are granted, and the application takes only 30 minutes; employment regulations are discussed in detail in the Labour chapter
  • 96 per cent of applications for visas other than for permanent residence (‘non-settlement visas’) are processed within 15 days
  • Obtaining planning permission typically takes 56 days and costs GBP6,676
  • ¾ of major infrastructure projects are decided on time (within 13 weeks) and the majority of smaller projects are decided within eight weeks with approval rates at 88 per cent; infrastructure is discussed in detail in the Infrastructure chapter
  • The UK was ranked first in a comparison of 36 countries' intellectual property systems that assesses cost, speed, quality of judges/tribunals, quality of advice and the fairness and predictability of decisions; intellectual property rights are discussed in the Legal overview chapter
  • Companies applying for a listing on the LSE must, amongst other requirements, demonstrate a three year trading history; this is discussed further in the Finance chapter

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:

  • The UK is currently equal fifth largest economy in the world; it is predicted to overtake Germany to become the largest Western European economy around 2030
  • More companies locate their European headquarters in the UK than anywhere else in Europe
  • The UK's labour force of 32 million people is the second largest in the EU
  • No.1 rated major European economy for global talent
  • Lowest employer social security contributions among the EU's five largest economies

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.

Useful Links

1 Companies House
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

 

Sources

1 No.1 Destination for FDI
2 Doing Business Rankings
3 Visa Stats/Infrastructure Projects
4 IP Index
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)

Disclaimer

This document is issued by HSBC Bank plc. (the Bank). This guide is a joint project with Grant Thornton. It is not intended as an offer or solicitation for business to anyone in any jurisdiction. It is not intended for distribution to anyone located in or resident in jurisdictions which restrict the distribution of this document. It shall not be copied, reproduced, transmitted or further distributed by any recipient. The information contained in this document is of a general nature only. It is not meant to be comprehensive and does not constitute financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this document without obtaining specific professional advice. Whilst every care has been taken in preparing this document, the Bank and Grant Thornton makes no guarantee, representation or warranty (express or implied) as to its accuracy or completeness, and under no circumstances will the Bank or Grant Thornton be liable for any loss caused by reliance on any opinion or statement made in this document. Except as specifically indicated, the expressions of opinion are those of the Bank and are subject to change without notice. The materials contained in this document were assembled in January 2016 and were based on the law enforceable and information available at that time.

Grant Thornton refers to the brand under which the Grant Thornton member firms provide assurance, tax and advisory services to their clients and/or refers to one or more member firms, as the context requires. Grant Thornton International Ltd (GTIL) and its member firms are not a worldwide partnership. GTIL and each member firm is a separate legal entity. Services are delivered by the member firms. GTIL does not provide services to clients. GTIL and its member firms are not agents of, and do not obligate, one another and are not liable for one another’s acts or omissions. This publication has been prepared only as a guide. No responsibility can be accepted by GTIL for loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of any material in this publication.

HSBC retains all responsibility for the translation of the content of this guide. In the event of any discrepancy or inconsistency between the English and translated versions of this Guide, the English version shall apply and prevail.

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