Which companies are leaving UK, downsizing or cutting jobs ahead of Brexit?

Dozens of companies have cut jobs, beefed up their European operations or issued warnings on the impact of the UK's departure from the EU

Joe Sommerlad,Ben Chapman
Tuesday 26 February 2019 13:13
Man who worked at Honda Swindon for 24 years sums out Brexit in 6 words

Brexit brings us nightmarish new headlines from the business world on most days at present.

Declining manufacturing growth; £44bn-worth of transactions in jeaopardy every day and retailers chiming in to say prices of some foods could rise by 45 per cent, to say it's looking dicey out there is putting it mildly.

The fact that former Brexit secretary David Davis chose to deny the UK was heading into a “Mad Max-style dystopia” is arguably quite telling.

Even Somerset Capital Management, a firm co-founded by Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, has warned that the UK's departure from the EU could cause "considerable uncertainty".

Here’s a list of companies that have issued similar warnings, announced plans to cut UK jobs or beefed up their European operations since the June 2016 referendum.

Airbus

The aerospace group employs 14,000 people in Britain, including 6,000 jobs at its main wings factory at Broughton in North Wales and 3,000 at Filton, near Bristol, where wings are designed.

Chief executive Tom Enders warned in January that the firm could be forced to start shutting down UK plants and attacked Theresa’s May’s government for the prevailing state of chaos, saying: “It is a disgrace that, more than two years after the result of the 2016 referendum, businesses are still unable to plan properly for the future.”

“We, along with many of our peers, have repeatedly called for clarity, but we still have no idea what is really going on here,” he said.

“Please don’t listen to the Brexiteers’ madness which asserts that ‘because we have huge plants here we will not move and we will always be here’. They are wrong.”

Airbus CEO urges UK decision makers to avoid no-deal Brexit

Aviva

Britain’s second-largest insurer announced in February it will move £7.8bn worth of assets to Ireland as it prepares for Brexit.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch

The US lender is spending $400m (£306m) to move staff out of London, with Paris its preferred new European headquarters.

The bank announced the merger of its UK and Irish subsidiaries in May last year, transferring 125 jobs to Dublin. Even if the UK decided not to leave the EU, Dublin will remain BAML's European headquarters, the bank's chairman said.

Barclays

The British bank has moved £166bn of its clients' assets to the Irish capital, stating that it could not wait any longer to implement Brexit contingency plans.

Barclays has also set aside a cool £150m in anticipation of Brexit chaos, expecting a slowdown in economic growth of 0.3 per cent and a spike in unemployment of 5.7 per cent.

The lender has said it expects around 150-200 of its 50,000 staff to move, mostly to Dublin.

British Steel

The company announced 400 job cuts in September 2018 blaming the weakening of the pound and the euro which has made the raw materials it uses - all traded in US dollars - more expensive.

In May 2019 British Steel said it risked going into administration, putting more than 4,000 jobs on the line at its main Scunthorpe plant and three other sites, along with an estimated 20,000 in the supply chain.

The private-equity backed company said it needed £30m of government support, partly because of "Brexit-related" problems, namely that its European customers were holding off purchases because of uncertainty over tariffs and other trading arrangements.

Steel firms are also facing the effects of tariffs introduced by Donald Trump's administration in a trade battle with China.

Credit Suisse

The giant Swiss bank is reported to have moved about 250 bankers from London to other European financial hubs.

Dyson

The decision by billionaire inventor Sir James Dyson to relocate his company’s headquarters from Malmesbury in Wiltshire to Singapore was denounced as hypocrisy, given his vocal support for Brexit.

Sir James had said he was “enormously optimistic” about Britain’s prospects outside of the EU.

Chief executive Jim Rowan insisted the move was not linked to Brexit or lower taxes: “It’s about making sure we are future-proofed.”

“This can only be seen as a vote of no confidence in the idea of Brexit Britain,” Layla Moran MP argued.

Another super-rich Brexiteer, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has suffered similar criticism for relocating to Monaco for tax purposes.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe's plan to move to Monaco was condemned by shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

Ford

The US car maker warned in February that a no-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic” for its business and and put jobs at risk at its Bridgend, Dagenham and Halewood manufacturing plants.

Ford said it would do “whatever is necessary” to safeguard its interests.

The company had already said a month earlier it would cut jobs in the UK as a result of the rehousing two divisions, Ford UK and Ford Credit, under one roof in Dunton, Essex. Around 370 job cuts are planned for Ford's Bridgend engine factory as part of broader plans to boost profits in Europe

A no-deal Brexit would cost Ford $800m (£613m) in 2019 due to World Trade Organisation tariffs and the impact of weaker sterling, the company has said.

Ford's engine plant in Bridgend

Goldman Sachs

Goldman said a year ago that it was reaching the point of its Brexit contingency planning where it would start making irreversible business decisions but an exact figure on how many people it has moved to the Continent remains illusive.

In 2017, former chief executive Lloyd Blankfein tweeted a picture of the investment bank's new London office, with the comment: "Expecting/hoping to fill it up, but so much outside our control. #Brexit".

Honda

The Japanese car giant confirmed in May it will close its manufacturing plant in Swindon in 2021, culling 3,500 jobs, a decision business secretary Greg Clark admitted was “a bitter blow”.

The company’s European chief Katsushi Inoue insisted the move was being made as the company shifts its focus away from Civics towards electric alternatives and was not in response to Brexit.

An employee at the facility of 24 years’ standing spoke for his colleagues (and a proportion of the nation) when he branded the current political malaise “idiocy of epic proportions” in an interview with Channel 4 News that went viral.

HSBC

“The longer we have the uncertainty the worse it’s going to be for the customers,” chief executive John Flint warned in February. “Customers are absolutely postponing investment decisions… and that’s been the part of this slowdown that we have seen in the UK.”

Jaguar Land Rover

The UK’s biggest car manufacturer, owned by Indian conglomerate Tata, announced in January that it would be cutting 4,500 jobs, the majority falling in the UK, to make £2.5bn of cost savings. Plummeting demand for diesel cars and a slowdown in China are at the root of JLR's problems.

JLR currently employs 44,000 workers in the UK at plants in Halewood on Merseyside and Solihull, Castle Bromwich and Wolverhampton in the West Midlands and also send it planned to halt production for a week in April “due to potential Brexit disruption”.

Both BMW and Toyota have made similar pledges for the same reason.

JPMorgan Chase

The American bank said in September its Brexit plans were “past the point of no return” and as many as 4,000 of its 16,000 UK staff could move in the event of no-deal being agreed between the UK and the EU.

“We are now in full execution mode,” vice chairman Mark Garvin told Parliament’s Treasury Committee, with no little theatrical flare. “We are in the very advanced phases of execution, in fact. A number of these initiatives are already in flight and in many cases we have passed the point of no return – they are happening.”

The US bank will migrate its commercial banking operations to Luxembourg and merge its European wealth management arm with its office in the principality. Frankfurt will host its investment banking and markets business.

Lloyds of London

The home of the London insurance market for 330 years, Lloyds of London (not to be confused with the banking group) said back in December 2016 it would open up an EU base.

Lloyd’s is working on transferring all European Economic Area (EEA) business to its new Brussels subsidiary before the end of 2020.

The Richard Rogers-designed Lloyds of London building in the heart of the City

Michelin

The tyre manufacturer announced in November 2018 it would close its Dundee factory in Scotland, which employs 845, people by 2020, citing a decline in demand for its products and competition from Asia rather than Brexit.

Moneygram

US money transfer giant Moneygram has moved its European headquarters from London to Brussels. "Once the UK is no longer part of the EU, it is anticipated the company will no longer be able to provide payments services outside the UK," the company said in January 2018.

Nissan

The Japanese car company announced in early February it would no longer be making its new X-Trail SUV at its Sunderland factory, relocating manufacturing to Kyushu in Japan instead.

The company’s European boss Gianluca de Ficchy commented in a letter to the plant’s 16,000 staff: “We have taken this decision for the business reasons I’ve explained but clearly the uncertainty around the UK’s future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future.”

A trade deal between the EU and Japan also means that exports from Kyushu to Europe will soon be tariff-free.

Nissan's X-Trail, the latest version of which will not be built in Sunderland, as the company had previously pledged

Panasonic

The Japanese consumer electronics giant announced last August it would be moving its European headquarters from London to Amsterdam in the Netherlands to avoid potential tax issues linked to Brexit.

Panasonic expressed concern that the UK could be regarded as a tax haven post-Brexit because of mooted proposals to slash corporate tax rates. That might result in huge back-tax demands from japan and other nations.

P&O

All P&O ships operating in the English Channel will be under the Cypriot flag, instead of the British flag to keep tax arrangements in the EU and reduce the risk of extra inspections and delays. A number of P&O ferries operating routes to and from the UK have been registered in the Bahamas for years.

Philips

Philips is closing its only UK factory, at Glemsford in Suffolk. All operations and 430 jobs will transfer to the Netherlands.

The Dutch multinational said in January the decision was part of a plan to reduce its number of manufacturing sites around the world and was not not directly related to Brexit.

But last July, Philips warned that it would cut up to 500 jobs if the UK does not secure a favourable trade deal with the EU.

Rolls-Royce

The engine maker announced 4,600 job cuts at its Derby plant by 2020, a move it said would help save around £400m a year.

Brexit was not cited as a factor. Rolls-Royce has also confirmed it is pressing ahead with plans to shift design approval for large aero engines from Derby to Germany.

Rolls-Royce, seen as a quintessentially British company and a world-leading manufacturer, stressed the switch to Germany was a “precautionary and reversible technical action” and would not impact UK jobs

A £235m contract to maintain the nuclear engines of the UK's fleet of submarines has been confirmed by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. The deal will secure about 500 jobs, mostly in Derby.

Rolls Royce is cutting thousands of jobs, mostly in support roles, at its Derby base (Reuters)

Schaeffler

Automotive and industrial supplier Schaeffler is to close two sites in the UK, with “uncertainty” surrounding Brexit given as one factor behind the decision.

Sites in Plymouth and Llanelli, South Wales, will close within two years with up to 500 jobs affected.

Sony

Like Panasonic, the Japanese electronics giant announced in January it is moving its European headquarters from London to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It is understood that no jobs have yet been moved.

According to the Dutch government, up to 250 companies were in talks last month to relocate to the scenic canal city as a result of Brexit.

Toyota

Toyota slashed its profit forecast for 2019 and warned that it will be impossible to avoid the harmful effects of a no-deal Brexit.

“We cannot avoid the negative impact no matter how much we prepare beforehand if Britain leaves the EU with no deal,” the firm’s senior managing officer Masayoshi Shirayanagi said in February.

He said Toyota “will monitor the situation, hoping that it will not happen”, adding it was not currently considering production changes.

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UBS

Switzerland's biggest bank chose Frankfurt as the base for its EU operations after Brexit.

“The financial system is already operating on the assumption that there is no agreement,” between the UK and EU, chief executive Sergio Ermotti said in September.

Unilever

The consumer goods giant which makes everything from Marmite to Domestos, said it would scrap its dual-headquartered structure and make Rotterdam its main base.

But six months later, in October last year, it u-turned on the plan after shareholders expressed anger.

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