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The number of firms making Brexit relocation plans is rising

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Lloyd’s of London moved jobs to Brussels ahead of Brexit. Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Archive/PA Images

Growing numbers of firms have begun relocating part of their business this year because of Brexit, a survey suggests.

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)’ quarterly commercial property survey of its members found 33% of respondents had seen signs of companies looking to move at least some of their operations. in the first quarter of 2019.

That marked a sharp rise on the both the third and fourth quarters of 2018, when the percentage of respondents noticing company move plans stood still at 24%.

A narrow majority of 52% of respondents believe relocations will actually go ahead.

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The latest survey report adds: “Of course, whether or not firms do decide to relocate will still depend on how the negotiations unfold from here on.”

Big British companies to have relocated so far include Lloyd’s of London, which recently set up Lloyd’s of Brussels and moved staff from its famous UK home.

RICS also says anecdotal evidence suggests “a lack of movement on Brexit continues to deter investors and occupiers across the board.”

The RICS figures suggest demand dipped for commercial property overall in Q1 of 2019.

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But while demand for retail space dropped and office demand was stable, the demand in industry for space was on the up.

RICS suggests the figures show businesses may still be looking for warehouse space as Brexit looms.

Meanwhile, the grim retail figures – with the number of vacant units edging up for the past 18 months – are an alarming sign for the sector.

Retailers appear to be having to fork out for incentives to lure new clients, with 48% of RICS members reporting a rise in inducements used by retail landlords.