More than half of the largest US companies operating in the UK plan to increase investment in the coming years, though there are concerns about the lack of trade agreements between the UK leaving the EU.
A survey of 68 large US companies employing more than 275,000 employees in the UK found the country to be “very confident” as a place to do business. About a third of people believe that trust is at the highest level, while around 60% said they would increase their investment in the UK.
The survey was conducted by US/UK trade association British American business and consultancy firm Bain and covered businesses ranging from financial and manufacturing services to technology, media and telecommunications. Respondents include insurance company Marsh McLennan and payments company American Express.
Anna Mars, President of American Express Group, said: “The strong multilingual talent base, conducive business environment and geographic and time zone advantages make the UK an ideal starting point for our business outside the UK in the United States.”
Dan Glaser, president and CEO of Marsh McLennan, is equally optimistic. “The UK is a large and dynamic economy with an excellent system of regulation and education,” he said. “The best talent from around the world wants to work and live in the UK.”
However, the investigation also found that there are concerns about Brexit and US trade relations between US companies with large-scale operations in the UK.
The main concerns about Brexit are the risks of political tensions and practical issues such as supply chain problems and the ability to acquire talent from the EU. Regulatory barriers, loss of ability to perform certain services in the EU and tariffs were also reported.
About 17% of US companies surveyed said they had relocated jobs to the European Union.
US companies surveyed warned that these Brexit concerns could weigh on their future prospects and expect the survey to become an annual indicator of US investment intentions in the UK.
About 40% of companies said their first priority should be to improve political and economic relations with the EU so that the UK maintains its dominant position as a US investment destination.
“The UK is in a good position to continue to attract companies from the US and around the world,” said British American Business CEO Duncan Edwards.
“But reaching a global trade agreement with the United States, establishing a more active political and trade relationship with the European Union, and a more trade-friendly domestic policy will improve this positive outlook.”
The investigation revealed that another major priority for US companies is to complete negotiations on trade deals between Washington and London. According to people familiar with the matter, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will travel to the US this week to meet with officials.
Other suggestions to the UK government include clarifying its industrial strategy and maintaining a business-friendly corporate tax environment.
Jonathan Frick, Bain’s partner in London, said that since Britain left the European Union, US investors have laid off most of the workforce. “In particular, financial services firms believe that the city will continue to be a hub of the business community with a large and diverse talent pool,” he said.
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