Ford has become the latest company to announce it will be closing one of its UK plants – in 2020, the car giant will be closing of its Bridgend plant after 40 years in service. This comes on the back of Honda’s decision to bail out of the UK, and countless other companies who are considering their position in the UK.
But are businesses really leaving the UK because of Brexit?
Why are car-makers leaving the UK?
Ford is the latest company to announce plans to shut one of its UK plants, following its decision to close its Bridgend manufacturing plant. A number of factors have been blamed for the decision, including the increasing electrification of cars and falling diesel sales, which have forced car makers to change their business strategies. But Brexit has also burdened some of the blame, the main issue being that leaving the EU without a deal could hit complex cross-border supply chains, making it less profitable to produce vehicles in the UK.
It’s estimated that 1,700 jobs are at risk, in what has been called a major blow to the Welsh economy.
Ford’s announcement comes a few months after Honda confirmed plans to close its Swindon plant in 2021, leading to the loss of 3,500 jobs. An announcement was made in February by Katsushi Inoue, president of Honda Motor Europe, who said: “In light of the unprecedented changes that are affecting our industry, it is vital that we accelerate our electrification strategy and restructure our global operations accordingly.
He added: “As a result, we have had to take this difficult decision to consult our workforce on how we might prepare our manufacturing network for the future. This has not been taken lightly and we deeply regret how unsettling today’s announcement will be for our people.”
Although Brexit hasn’t been explicitly cited as a reason for the car giant’s decision, it seems too much of a coincidence that the decision comes just weeks before the UK is set to leave the EU, with a possible no-deal departure looking increasingly likely.
And Honda’s decision came just weeks after Dyson announced plans to relocate its headquarters to the Far East.
The British technology company has announced that it is moving its headquarters from the UK to Singapore. The move will see Jorn Jensen, the chief financial officer, and Martin Bowen, chief technical officer, move to Asia, but the appliance manufacturer insists no jobs will be affected in its current head office in Malmesbury in Wiltshire.
The company insists that the move is nothing to do with Brexit or tax – chief executive, Jim Rowan, said: “It’s to make us future-proof for where we see the biggest opportunities.” – but it’s hard not to be at least a little skeptical and very cynical, given that Jeremy Dyson, the founder and figurehead of the company, is a fully paid-up, drum-beating Brexiteer.
What companies are leaving the UK because of Brexit?
Even if Dyson’s decision to set up away from the UK is nothing to with Brexit – the company said it would be spending £200m in new buildings and testing facilities in Hullavington, and £44m in refreshing office space and adding new laboratories in Malmesbury as well as investing £31m for the young undergraduates at its university on the same site – there are companies who are spooked by the uncertainty surrounding the EU, and considering relocating to the continent or beyond.
Japanese electronics’ manufacturer Panasonic announced that it will be moving its European HQ from the UK to The Netherlands, in a move designed to limit tax issues linked to Brexit. The UK already has one Europe’s lowest corporation tax rates, and it could be lowered even further after Brexit, to help attract investment from businesses. These lower rates could see the UK becomes tax haven for many businesses and while, on the face of it, this is an attractive proposition, but companies operating within tax havens 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.
Panasonic is just one of a number of Japanese firms looking to relocate from the UK, with retailer Muji is also rumoured to be moving its European HQ from the UK to Germany, alongside Japanese banks Nomura and Daiwa, which are already setting up EU operations in Germany. It’s probably no coincidence that Japan has recently signed a huge trade deal with the EU, and so a presence in the UK will no longer be a priority after Brexit.
Sony is another Japanese tech company that has stated its intention to move its European headquarters from the UK to the Netherlands, in a bid to avoid disruptions caused by Brexit.
The company said the move would help it avoid customs issues tied to Britain’s exit from the EU, but insists it won’t shift personnel and operations from the existing UK operations, meaning UK jobs aren’t affected.
Lloyds of London
Lloyds of London, the banking and insurance group, 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.”
Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover and BMW
Nissan is another Japanese firm with a close eye on Brexit. The car giant, which built nearly a third of Britain’s 1.67 million cars last year, has warned there will be “serious implications” for Britain’s manufacturing industry if the UK fails to secure a trade deal with the European Union.
Jaguar Land Rover and BMW are also weighing up their options, particularly in the event of a no-deal outcome.
Airbus is another manufacturing giant that has warned it could leave the UK if the EU divorce bill means leaving the single market and customs union without a transition deal. The company employs 14,000 people at 25 sites in the UK – around half in Wales – and its leaving would be a massive blow to the people in those areas.
Although not all have cited Brexit as a direct or indirect reason they’ll be leaving the UK, here’ s a comprehensive list of the major businesses who are set to leave the UK:
- Bank of America
- Goldman Sachs
- JP Morgan
On @GMB I was confronted with same ridiculous claim that ‘nothing to do with Brexit’. @Honda_UK invests here because we were ‘gateway to EU Single Market. No longer. Up against Brexiteer John Longworth : “we don’t need these multinational investors” https://t.co/MySpYNSZ5C
— Vince Cable (@vincecable) February 19, 2019
Are businesses leaving the UK because of Brexit? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.