In less than three months the British people will vote whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union or if the country should leave.
Brexit would be devastating on many levels. It is in Sweden's direct interest that Britain remains part of the EU.
However, we cannot afford to sit back and simply hope for the best in the meantime. Representatives from both politics and business have to agree on a plan to identify measures for how we can advance Sweden’s and Stockholm’s positions if the UK decides to leave the EU.
Polls in Britain are currently showing a fairly even race between those who want to leave and those who want to stay in the EU. A high level of uncertainty is the rule rather than the exception for this kind of referendum. A proactive plan in the event of Brexit is therefore necessary.
We believe that a successful strategy has to focus on how Stockholm can strengthen its position as a hub for headquarters.
Sweden and Stockholm are at the forefront when it comes to headquarters. In Stockholm there are nine headquarters for businesses operating in global sectors. This means Stockholm is tied for eighth place in the world, among cities with international headquarters.
Unfortunately, our strong position has lately been challenged. Figures show that since 2010 Sweden has dropped two spots. Today, Switzerland, Ireland and Hong Kong have more global headquarters per million residents than Stockholm (according to 2014 figures). This development is a major problem, because the concentration of executive functions and headquarters drives skilled jobs and growth.
Maria Rankka and Andreas Hatzigeorgiou. Photo: Stockholm Chamber of Commerce
The UK has in total 21 headquarters operating within global sectors. The country has been a member of the EU for 43 years. Almost 90 precent of British technological companies told a recent survey that they were against Brexit.
It should thus be in global British companies’ interest to review where they locate operations in case the referendum leads the country away from the EU. Sweden and Stockholm would then be an attractive alternative to the UK and London.
The threat of Brexit brings about completely new challenges. From a Swedish perspective it warrants a coordinated effort from politics and business with the purpose of advancing its position if Britain leaves the EU, particularly in regards to headquarters. This would benefit investment and Swedish economic growth.
This is a translation of an article written by Maria Rankka, CEO of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, and Andreas Hatzigeorgiou, PhD Chief Economist of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, and first published by Dagens Industri.