Close to a third of British businesses are ready to move their operations abroad due to the risks linked to Brexit, according to a survey published on Friday by a U.K. think tank. The survey, conducted by the Institute of Directors, polled 1,200 company directors on 17 – 19 January: 29% said they planned to move to prevent their businesses from being disrupted by a British withdrawal from the EU whose contours were still uncertain. Sixteen percent of the companies had already started moving their activities while the remaining 13% were considering it.
These figures suggest that not only big groups, but also small and medium-sized companies were concerned by the Brexit preparations. “It brings no pleasure to reveal these worrying signs, but 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,” Edwin Morgan, interim Director General of the Institute, said.
Businesses fear above all that a hard Brexit would mean a return to customs checks and other administrative formalities, making it tougher to import supplies and sell their goods abroad.
The most worrisome warning was issued by the European aeronautics giant Airbus, which has threatened to withdraw from Britain in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The banking sector, led by the U.S. banks, is also taking precautions and has begun to shift activities and jobs to many European cities. Early this week, Barclays Bank obtained the green light to transfer assets worth 160 billion pounds to Ireland, although the decision does not entail massive job shifts.
Many companies are also preparing for Brexit by increasing their stocks in the auto, industrial and food sectors.
The latest is the Anglo-Dutch multinational, Unilever, known in Britain as the owner of the famous Marmite spread. Unilever announced on Thursday that it was stocking more of its famous Ben and Jerry’s and Magnum ice creams.