5 March 2019

Brexit is making it harder to deal with the UK

Many Dutch firms are concerned about how Brexit will continue to affect them, and some are finding it harder to trade with UK companies, as revealed in feedback from an event we held recently in the Netherlands.

Our Brexit seminar in Middelburg brought together more than 60 business leaders from the Netherlands. They either had existing business ties with the UK,  were contemplating expansion into the UK or cooperation with British partners.

In partnership with Dutch firm Adriaanse van der Weel, HCR’s international team explored how Dutch businesses are interpreting our progress with Brexit, what they feel its impact is likely to be on their businesses, and how they are preparing for what may come. We also gave advice on how Dutch companies can best take advantage of opportunities, learn from experience and reduce risk.

Half of the businesses at the seminar, which included food producers, construction firms and professional services firms, have ties with the UK in some form. Less than half of the delegates (42%) said Brexit is making it more difficult to deal with the UK, but these concerns are becoming increasingly real as 29 March draws closer.

Concern over the consequences of a no-deal Brexit was expressed by 69% of those at the seminar. However, many have already taken action to prepare.

Frederic Mussche, Sales Manager at Scheldebouw, part of Permasteelisa Group, said: “In our field of business, the UK will remain a strong market. In our programmes we do and can allow for delays at customs/borders; we discuss and agree this now with our clients to build in sufficient leeway to try and absorb this.

“Nevertheless we are expanding our focus to other markets within Europe to be less dependent on the UK, in case it slows down. Brexit also provides business opportunities for us as some companies relocate [from the UK] to other parts of Europe and require new office and residential buildings for their employees.”

Scheldebouw is a multi-national manufacturing company that provides cladding solutions for iconic and skyline-changing buildings and constructions.

Nicolas Groffman, head of international at Harrison Clark Rickerbys, said: “There is opportunity from Brexit. For many years UK businesses have focused on the markets in front of their noses and while the EU is a very important market for the UK, so is the rest of the world.”

So while the world is potentially feeling ‘bigger’ there are still markets close by, and the Netherlands is definitely open to business with the UK.

Jaap IJdema, partner at Adriaanse van der Weel, said: “There is a strong sense that businesses in the Netherlands still very much want to do business with the UK. It’s important to find opportunities to strengthen relationships and work collaboratively to find solutions to any of the challenges that arise from Brexit. We await the outcome of the ‘deal’ with interest.”

Has the European opinion of the UK changed? 56% of the business people at the seminar say their perception of the UK is more negative because of how Brexit has been handled, but 39% say their perception is unchanged.

Overall, there is real concern about Brexit, but pragmatic business leaders are planning ahead to mitigate the possible effects. Many want to continue their links with the UK; some want to copy the successes of UK companies that have benefited from Brexit; all await developments with interest.

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About the Author
Nicolas Groffman, Partner, Head of International Team
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