European businesses warn that Brexit is damaging UK’s trading reputation

Brexit has put Britain’s reputation as an international trading hub at risk, according to RSM International, the leading global network of audit, tax and consulting firms focused on the middle market.

The UK’s inability to agree an exit deal has had a significant impact on brand Britain with 90% of European businesses saying Brexit has damaged the UK’s reputation as a trading partner.

The survey of senior European business decision makers was conducted for RSM by the European Business Awards*. The research shows that Britain’s diminished reputation as a trading partner is already hitting home as European businesses look to protect their supply chains by reducing their exposure to the UK. Nearly one in five (18%) European businesses are expanding into new markets outside of the UK as a result of Brexit while 14% have renegotiated contracts with their UK suppliers.

The reputational decline of Britain as a place to do business has also resulted in some European businesses making plans to leave the UK. 89% of European business leaders think the UK’s reputation as a place to do business has declined with 8% saying they have already moved part of their UK operations out of the country.

In contrast, separate research from RSM’s UK firm* found that British middle market businesses appear less concerned about the impact on the UK's reputation. Just a quarter said that the UK's trading reputation had been damaged as a result of Brexit while one in five said it had improved, a perspective shared only by 3 per cent of European businesses.'

Gregor Schmidt, RSM Regional Leader for Europe, said:

“The UK sits as a key link in many European business supply chains, but this position looks to be under threat. The emphatic negative response from European businesses on the UK’s reputation as a place to trade may be emotional, however, it is likely to have real-life consequences and lead to a long-term economic shift in how and where EU companies do business.”

“Regardless of what happens in London and Brussels, it is up to the ingenuity of UK and EU business leaders to keep their doors open to trade.”

*About the data

The research was conducted using separate UK and European samples.

European sample:

The RSM Survey on Brexit was conducted by the European Business Awards. 389 responses were collected between 19.02.19 and 28.02.19.

UK sample:

Research conducted on behalf of RSM UK by YouGov collected responses from 316 C-suite interviews in the UK. Fieldwork was conducted between 17.01.19 and 14.02.19.