You can bypass Brexit by becoming an electronic citizen of Estonia, claims a government start-up.
The team behind e-Residency attempted a ‘defiant campaign’ against the decision to light up Downing Street for Brexit day with its own display at stations across London on Monday night, according to a press release.
But when the South West Londoner met with marketing chief Alex Wellman and head of PR Katrin Vaga, they struck a more impartial tone.
Mr Wellman said: “It’s not about Remain or Leave, we want to stay out of that side of politics. This is about offering a solution to companies worried about the impact of Brexit.”
The duo explained they were using January 31st to market the Baltic country’s mission to register Brits for a programme that could allow individuals to create an Estonian company, with all the benefits of EU free trade, without leaving London.
“We find [a light show] works better than a press release,” quipped an aide from PR firm Liberty.
But the display was beset by bad weather and when it finally appeared – over an hour behind schedule – the message was difficult to read and contained no legible information about the scheme.
“It’s not going too well, is it?” Said the same aide, who assured us they were working on projecting a more eye-catching plan B, which eventually lit up Liverpool Street (below).
WHAT IS THE E-RESIDENCY PROGRAM?
Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, Pope Francis and 3,500 people in the UK all own e-Residency cards, according to Mr Wellman, who said they have seen an increase in interest since the 2016 EU referendum.
Managing director of e-Residency Ott Vatter said: “It is not surprising that there is still a great deal of confusion and apprehension three years after the UK chose to leave the EU.
“Companies simply have not had the support they need to prepare adequately for Brexit, and this in turn is affecting their sense of security and stability in doing business in the UK.
“With e-Residency, British entrepreneurs and business owners can become digital residents of Estonia, meaning that they can create virtual companies in Estonia without having to leave the UK.”
Estonia created the program in 2014. It currently boasts more than 60,000 e-Residents from 164 countries who have set up 10,000 companies ‘in’ Estonia.
While the card currently only helps an individual set up a business, Mr Wellman hopes the program will expand to eventually allow citizens to pick and choose which services they want from a range of countries.
He said: “Maybe from one country they choose to set up a business there, like Estonia, and maybe from another country they choose to get their healthcare. That’s where we see it evolving over time.”
E-Residency surveyed 1,001 small business owners and entrepreneurs across the UK to find out their attitudes towards Brexit and the impact it will have on their businesses.
It found that almost half (47.3%) of respondents think Brexit will have a negative impact on their business and a third (33.06%) would consider moving out of the UK post-Brexit.
Mr Vatter said: “We’d like to extend our hand to all British companies, whether they are considering leaving the UK or not, so we can help them maintain access to the EU market after any Brexit scenario.
“Staying in the UK can help the country’s economy through this period of uncertainty, but by becoming an e-Resident they don’t have to fear a no-deal Brexit or an end to access to the free market.”
WHAT DOES AN E-RESIDENCY CARD ALLOW?
With an e-Resident card you can:
· Open a company within a day and run the company remotely.
· Apply for a business banking account and credit card.
· Conduct e-banking.
· Use international payment service providers.
· Declare taxes.
· Sign documents digitally.
An e-Resident card does not provide:
· Tax residency.
· Physical residency.
· The right to travel to Estonia or the EU.
WATCH Katrin Vaga talk more about the scheme: