New figures from the Institute of Directors show that nearly one in three (29%) members could be forced to shift operations abroad due to Brexit.
A survey of over 1,200 company directors found that 16% had already pressed the button on relocation plans or were planning to in connection with Brexit, while a further 13% are actively considering doing so.
The trend was not restricted to big business. While more large companies had already moved operations, small firms were almost twice as likely to be now actively considering the prospect.
Two-thirds of exporters to the EU were looking to relocate overseas, and 4 in 10 IoD members who are engaged with contingency planning have explored moving operations. The EU was by far the most commonly-identified destination for firms looking to move or set up operations abroad to deal with Brexit.
Edwin Morgan, Interim Director General of the Institute of Directors, said:
“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. Change is a necessary and often positive part of doing business, but the unavoidable disruption and increased trade barriers that no-deal would bring are entirely unproductive.
“While the actions of big companies have been making headlines, these figures suggest that smaller enterprises are increasingly considering taking the serious step of moving some operations abroad. For these firms, typically with tighter resources, to be thinking about such a costly course of action makes clear the precarious position they are in.
“We still have a chance to stem the flow, and provide enough certainty to the firms that are considering moving but haven’t yet done so. The UK’s hard-won reputation as a stable, predictable environment for enterprise is being chipped away. Our political leaders must keep this in the front of their minds as we enter this critical phase of negotiations.”