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BREXIT Latest

Many companies are setting up additional companies in the EU or moving their headquarters to an EU country in a bid to minimise the negative fall-out they expect Brexit to have on their businesses. Anna Tobin looks at who is going where

The number of companies leaving the UK because of Brexit is growing and with no deal now a distinct possibility, more are expected to follow.

Last week, Japanese electronics' manufacturer Panasonic announced that it's moving its European HQ from the UK to The Netherlands. This move is reportedly designed to limit tax issues linked to Brexit. Panasonic Europe's chief executive Laurent Abadie told the Nikkei Asian Review that if the UK lowers corporation tax after Brexit in a bid to attract business, the UK could be viewed as a tax haven. While tax havens are designed to be attractive to business, companies operating within one risk being hit with much larger tax bills in their home country; this fear, as well as freedom of movement of staff and goods, is what is thought to be largely responsible for Panasonic Europe's move to Amsterdam. Japanese retailer Muji is also rumoured to be moving its European HQ from the UK to Germany, and Japanese banks Nomura and Daiwa are already setting up EU operations in Germany.

At the start of the summer, the EY (formerly known as Ernst & Young) Financial Services Brexit Tracker revealed that, as of June 2018, 34%, or 75 out of 222 of the companies they monitored, had "publicly confirmed, or stated their intentions, to move some of their operations and/or staff from the UK to Europe. This is a 2% point rise since March, building on the 1% point rise the previous quarter (December 2017)." Insurance and reinsurance market Lloyds of London announced in May that it had received regulatory approval from the National Bank of Belgium to establish an insurance company in Brussels. The company said in a statement: "This milestone moves us closer to our objective of being fully operational in Brussels by 1 January 2019 to ensure we can continue to work closely with our EU27 partners post-Brexit."

It's not just large multinationals that are relocating or branching out into the EU either as a result of Brexit. SMEs, particularly those that trade within the EU, are making plans to create European outposts and warehouses to minimise Brexit red tape and stock delays at borders. Online giftware retailer Rex London is setting up a Dutch base and The Grown Up Chocolate Company is considering relocating its business to Slovakia, for example.

Financial Building in Construcion

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Financial services firms are preparing to move £800bn of assets out of Britain to Europe as part of Brexit contingency plans, a report has revealed.

EY financial services' Brexit Tracker said 20 companies had announced plans to transfer assets - chiefly client cash and investments such as stock and bond holdings - out of London before 29 March.

The actual number could be higher: EY noted that not all City firms have publicly declared plans to shift their assets abroad.

The lobby group Frankfurt Main Finance forecast last year that up to EUR800bn (£72obn) of assets would be moved from London to the German financial hub.

Omar Ali, EY's financial services leader, said: "We know that behind the scenes, firms are continuing to plan for a no-deal scenario. The closer we get to 29 March without a deal, the more assets will be transferred and headcount hired locally or relocated."

EY has calculated that about 7,000 jobs could be relocated to the EU "in the near future", which is slightly lower than previous estimates owing to companies fine-tuning their projections and deciding to hire locally as well.

Since the referendum, 36% of the 222 UK financial services firms tracked by EY have either confirmed or said they are considering relocating staff or operations to the continent. That figure jumps to 56% when accounting just for universal banks, investment banks and brokerages.

The report highlighted that many companies had taken additional steps in recent months to ensure "business as usual" for clients, with at least two retail banks setting aside extra cash to help manage the uncertainty over Brexit.

RBS said in October it was setting aside £100m to cover any potential hit from "the more uncertain economic outlook".

Ali said: "Inevitably, the contingency plans are for day one only, and in the event of no deal will represent the tip of the iceberg as longer-term plans will be more strategic and extensive than those publicly announced to date."




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