MORE BRITS SEEK ESTONIA E-RESIDENCY
UK firms fearing ‘hard Brexit’ embracing Baltic state’s digital ID programme to retain EU access
AS Britons brace for the upheaval that Brexit could bring, some are turning to Estonia’s e-residency digital ID programme to keep doing business across the European Union.
Using its knack for digital innovation to capitalise on the global explosion in e-commerce, the cyber-savvy Baltic eurozone state became the first country to offer e-residency identification cards to people worldwide in 2014.
Touted as a “trans-national government-issued digital identity”, e-residency allows users to open a business in the EU and then run it remotely with the ability to declare taxes and sign documents digitally.
It does not provide citizenship, tax residency, physical residency or the right to travel to Estonia. Applications can be made online via the www.howtostayin.eu website and cost €100 (RM481.38).
Just over 22,000 people from 138 countries across the globe have become e-residents so far, including around 1,200 Brits, and last year’s Brexit vote triggered a boom in applications from the United Kingdom.
Before it, only three British citizens applied per week, but that shot up to over 50 in its aftermath. There was also a 75 per cent spike in UK traffic on the website after Prime Minister Theresa May triggered the Article 50 EU exit clause in March.
A “soft Brexit” would mean that Britain could retain access to the European single market, like non-EU member Norway. But the “hard Brexit” option that has prevailed so far would see UK leave the European single market and the Customs union, creating a nightmare scenario for UK businesses as there would no longer be free movement of goods and services.
“The UK may have chosen to leave the EU, but its entrepreneurs can still choose to remain inside the EU’s business environment” through e-residency, said programme director Kaspar Korjus.
E-residency spokesman Arnaud Castaignet said if a British entrepreneur became an Estonian e-resident and established a company producing goods in Estonia, then they “will have the same access to the EU market as any EU company”.
So far, the majority of companies established by e-residents are in consultancy services, IT and programming, web development and support services.
An upgrade to the e-residency programme in May saw Finnish fintech company Holvi team up with Estonia to launch borderless digital banking, eliminating the need for e-residents to travel to take care of business banking. AFP