Nearly a third of British businesses planning to quit UK over Brexit, industry chiefs warn

Written by John Johnston on 1 February 2019 in News

New figures show that 16 per cent of firms have already started the relocation process while another 13 per cent are actively planning for a move

Image credit: nmann77

Almost a third of UK businesses are looking to relocate abroad due to Brexit, industry leaders have warned.

The latest figures from the Institute of Directors (IOD) show that 16 per cent of firms had already started the relocation process while another 13 per cent were actively planning for a move.

In the survey of 1,200 company directors, less than two-thirds (62 per cent) stated they had no intention of moving or setting up operations outside of the UK.

The figures come just days after Airbus chief Tom Enders branded the government’s handling of the Brexit negotiations a “disgrace.”

And 69 per cent of the firms planning a move said they would be relocating to another EU27 state, while only 7 per cent claimed they would leave the EU entirely.

Edwin Morgan, Interim Director General of the IOD, said the figures revealed “worrying signs.”

"We can no more ignore the real consequences of delay and confusion than business leaders can ignore the hard choices that they face in protecting their companies.

"Change is a necessary and often positive part of doing business, but the unavoidable disruption and increased trade barriers that no-deal would bring are entirely unproductive."

The figures also showed that while a higher proportion of larger business had already begun moving their operations, twice as many small firms were now considering taking action as Brexit day approaches.

Morgan added: “We still have a chance to stem the flow, and provide enough certainty to the firms that are considering moving but haven’t yet done so. The UK’s hard-won reputation as a stable, predictable environment for enterprise is being chipped away.

“Our political leaders must keep this in the front of their minds as we enter this critical phase of negotiations.”

According to the poll, 14 per cent of manufacturing firms had already made the move away from the UK, with a further 13% considering doing so.

It also showed 17 per cent of financial and insurance firms had taken the plunge, with a further 14 per cent planning to do so.

Earlier this month, industry minister Richard Harrington warned that a no-deal Brexit would be a "disaster" which could see major businesses, including Jaguar and Mini, forced to shut their UK operations.

Meanwhile, former business minister Pat McFadden, speaking on behalf of the People’s Vote campaign, said the report should “concern everyone who cares about our economy, our reputation as a trading nation and jobs.”

“It is not about a ‘no deal’ departure or a scare story from the government but hard, cold facts showing how British businesses are already voting with their feet by cutting jobs, investment or moving offices abroad.

He added: “The Government’s proposed Brexit deal will do nothing to halt that slide. It doesn’t offer frictionless trade for manufacturing or supply chains; it means regulatory checks to ensure that goods made in the UK adhere to EU standards with a huge increase in costs and bureaucracy. And it does nothing to protect most of our economy – including the fast-growing services sector on which our future prosperity depends – from a hard Brexit.

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