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Brexit funding threat makes consultancy quit UK

Sustainability consultancy Oakdene Hollins has said it is relocating to the Republic of Ireland because Defra is unlikely to replace EU funding that is expected to be withdrawn following the referendum.

The firm, which heads up the European Remanufacturing Network, announced soon after the UK’s decision to leave the union that it was preparing to move to Ireland.

Managing director David Fitzsimons has now told MRW the main reason behind the early announcement is the potential withdrawal of funding from the European Commission.

He said there was little incentive to stay in the UK. Although the firm has carried out work for Defra, Fitzsimons said there was not much chance of the department funding any more research in the foreseeable future.

“That’s the risk to the business,” he said. “Having spent years building up this position, once the UK is no longer a member state we will be outside of the range of organisations that can seek Commission-funded project work.”

Leading up to the referendum, Fitzsimons campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU. He said he was surprised at the result but that he had planned for the EU exit nonetheless because of the “particular threats” it could cause the business.

As an Irish national “with a posh English accent”, he said the move to Ireland suits him, but the firm is also considering a move to Brussels.

A less-favoured option would be to allow the company to be bought by a European consultancy, many of which Fitzsimons said would be interested.

“It is bound to happen because they don’t have the domicile problem. They can get round the problem by simply buying the interests,” he said.

“For example, our remanufacturing work, our research reputation and our place in all the frameworks that we’ve got will add value to others that do not have our potential domicile problem.

“We don’t want to do that particularly but we are conscious it is a risk.”

He said the company would continue to work with the UK as it currently competes for these contracts with consultancies from Germany and the US.

Fitzsimons said it was too early to say how influenced the post-Brexit UK Government would be by European directives such as the circular economy (CE) package.

“I think Scotland will continue to be an advocate for the CE in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, and I think that will be true in Wales as well, where I think there is a good understanding of how the CE model is helpful to policymakers.

“But taking the UK overall, I don’t think I’ve got evidence to say one way or the other at the moment. I think nobody does. It is just one of those things that have not been considered yet.”

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