The British telecoms giant considers moving its headquarters in London out of the UK if post-Brexit negotiations with the EU won’t ensure access to the EU’s free movement of people, capital and goods.
In an emailed statement to several media organizations on Wednesday, Vodafone said it would take “whatever decisions are appropriate” to retain access to the EU, adding that it was, however, too early to “draw any firm conclusions regarding the long-term location for the headquarters.”
According to company figures, Vodafone employs 13,000 people in the UK and runs an operating division at Newbury, Berkshire. But the telecoms group headquarters are in London. Last year, Vodafone garnered 55 percent of its group profits from its European operations, while just 11 percent came from the UK.
In the statement, Vodafone noted that the single European market as well as freedom of movement, capital and goods, were “integral to the operation of any pan-European business.”
“It remains unclear at this point how many of those positive attributes will remain in place once the process of the UK’s exit from the European Union has been completed,” it added.
The company also announced it would start reporting its financial results in euros, rather than British pounds.
Mounting UK concern
Britain and the European Union are likely to take years to rewrite the rules that govern their business ties after the UK voted to leave the bloc.
As many UK companies are alarmed about being shut out of the EU market, Vodafone said it would boost its activities in Brussels “to ensure the group’s substantial businesses within the European Union continue to be represented appropriately.”
Meanwhile, the UK government has discussed Britain’s access to the single market with business leaders. After meeting the head of the CBI employer’s association on Tuesday, business secretary Sajid Javid said the government was “a long way off” having a plan for the negotiations with the EU.
“While I am not in any position to make promises, I assured everyone that my number one priority will be just that in the negotiations to come,” he told a news conference after the meeting.
CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn told reporters that the level of “real and genuine concern” among business leaders was very high.
uhe/kd (dpa, Vodafone)