Brexit: Dutch government says over 250 companies in talks about relocating to Netherlands

Sony and Panasonic are among household names to be lured away with promise of access to EU markets

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Wednesday 23 January 2019 16:35
Brexit: What will happen in 2019?

More than 250 companies are in touch with the Dutch government about moving to the Netherlands because of Brexit, officials have said.

The trade and investment arm of the country’s government has been soliciting moves from companies worried about access to the EU market, with Britain set to leave the single market and customs union.

A number of high-profile companies have already announced a decision to cross the North Sea, most recently Japanese electronics giant Sony specifically citing Brexit. Last year Panasonic also announced it was moving to Amsterdam.

Michiel Bakhuizen, a spokesman for the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA), told the AFP news agency that the number of firms in talks was growing.

A final figure would be announced next month cataloguing the relocations, he said, stating that “every new arrival of a business, big or small, is a success”.

“The number of businesses we are in contact with for a possible arrival is growing. At the start of 2017 it was 80, at the start of 2018 150, and now it’s more than 250,” he said.

“This increase will continue and it’s not strange, because there is great uncertainty at the moment in Britain. And if there is one thing that’s bad for business, it’s uncertainty.”

The spokesperson confirmed that that the NFIA was “in contact with more than 250 interested in an eventual move to the Netherlands because of Brexit”.

The Netherlands has sometimes appeared better prepared for Brexit than the UK, with advanced plans to recruit as many as 1,000 extra border officials to deal with potential disruption and extra bureaucracy caused by the UK’s exit.

In addition to private businesses, the UK has also lost a key EU agency to Amsterdam: the European Medicines Agency, which employs around 900 highly skilled workers.

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The Netherlands is not the only country to benefit from the UK’s policies. The EY financial services tracker reported earlier this month that 80 out of the 222 finance companies it follows have publicly said they are considering or have confirmed the relocation of UK staff and operations to the continent.

Attractive destinations for finance companies are said to include Dublin, Paris, Luxembourg and Frankfurt.

A survey conducted by the CBI in October found that a majority of businesses intended to start implementing their Brexit contingency plans in December. Around 30 per cent of the businesses contacted by the body were planning to relocate production and services overseas, with 56 per cent making adjustments to their supply chains.

“The situation is now urgent. Unless a withdrawal agreement is locked down by December, firms will press the button on their contingency plans. Jobs will be lost and supply chains moved,” CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn said at the time.

Theresa May has stuck by her decision to take the UK out of the single market and customs union, despite warnings from businesses. The prime minister says a closer economic arrangement outside the EU would not respect the referendum result. Labour disagrees and says the UK should have a customs union with the EU and follow the bloc’s industrial standards.

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