What exodus? Major firms commit to UK after Brexit – despite Remainer fears

Nigel Farage hits back at claims Brexit caused P&O layoffs

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Warnings persisted around the Brexit referendum about a possible need for firms to set up and expand offices abroad. Remainers feared tens of thousands of workers would move overseas to guarantee access to EU markets. But, according to data from financial services firm EY, many worst-case-scenario contingency plans have not been enacted. The group’s Brexit Tracker now finds companies have reaffirmed their commitment to London and the UK with projections for staff relocations revised further downward. The total number of announced Brexit-related job relocations from the UK to Europe now stands at just over 7,000, having fallen from 12,500 in the months following the 2016 referendum.

Omar Ali, EMEIA Financial Services Leader at EY, said: “The high number of potential job relocations reported in 2016 aligned with the uncertainty which surrounded the City’s ongoing relationship with Europe at the time.

“As firms gained greater clarity on what the post-Brexit landscape would look like, plans were consolidated and, in some cases, firms revised down the number of people they would need to relocate.”

Meanwhile, the UK has helped drive a surge in hiring across Europe thanks to an uptick in staff hires in London.

According to the latest tracker, the number of new hires publicly linked to Brexit rose to 5,400, compared with 5,000 at the end of last year, with 2,500 of these in the UK.

Across the tracker’s history, the number of firms announcing and acting on operational moves rose fastest in the run up to the end of the transition period and has remained increasingly flat in the years following.

A key factor now for many companies is what market access will look like as new trade deals are negotiated and agreed, with interest in new opportunities outside of Europe.

Mr Ali said: “When it comes to cross-border access outside of the EU, the UK has signed a number of trade deals over recent years with key markets including Australia and Japan.

“The data provisions in these agreements will help underpin an increase in cross-border financial services.

“More significant is the proposed financial services mutual recognition deal with Switzerland, which has the potential to become a gold standard template for other jurisdictions to replicate.”

The UK has also been using the time since leaving the EU to review its financial regulation in the hope of attracting new business investment.

So far, reviews have taken place around the rules for companies listing on London stock markets with an aim to encourage tech firms in particular to launch in the UK.

Opportunities have also been pointed to reform inherited EU regulation such as Solvency 2, which restricts how much money insurance companies can invest, and Mifid 2, which has been accused of saddling companies with higher costs for research.

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The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has already begun implementing some changes with reforms to listings rules already being carried out.

Mr Ali said: “The UK industry, which was arguably under the most threat from Brexit, continues to agree trade deals and attract business from across Europe and beyond as it increasingly concentrates on innovating services and products and implementing new and more tailored regulation.

“In the last year alone, the UK financial services market has driven progress on FinTech, the transition to net zero, diversity and inclusion, AI and central bank digital currencies.”

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