Matthew Argent is a co founder of Stockholm-based startup-enabling firm BLC Advisors. While Britain’s decision to leave the European Union was not the outcome he had hoped for from a personal point of view, at the same time, he thinks it will create a major opportunity for a country like Sweden.
“My heart was devastated because I think the decision is the wrong one for many reasons, but my head saw an opportunity, as a businessman in Stockholm,” he said.
“There were a lot of Berlin venture capitalists in London last week talking to people about relocating to Berlin. A lot of Irish people talking to companies about relocating to Ireland. There’s an opportunity for Stockholm there, as a major English-speaking community, to take advantage of the fallout in London in terms of investment and talent.”
Argent thinks that in his industry the uncertainty over the UK’s future could lead to London losing out on investment which could instead go to other European cities like Stockholm.
“There are a number of venture capital funds that have euro funds. They won’t be putting their money into the UK market, because they don’t know what’s going to happen in this divorce. There will be an opportunity for other European centres with a similar culture to London to take advantage of the environment.”
For Christine Demsteader, a Brit who runs Big Beak communications consultancy in Stockholm, the uncertainty is the main concern.
“Because it’s so chaotic at the moment it’s very difficult to know what impact it will have. In the chaos of nobody knowing how things will unfold, who knows?”
While she doesn’t foresee any great immediate impact on her company, she does say any business she carries out with British clients could now become more complicated.
“Right now a British company could call me up to do work for them and it’s easy. But having to sort out contracts like that in the future will be more difficult.”
Trade with Britain is also a question mark for Chris Billowes, who owns English pub The Tudor Arms in Stockholm.
“Theoretically the pound has gone down so export costs will be diminished, but if there are import duties and customs duties that will eventually affect the price of beer to the agents here in Sweden, who in turn will shift it on to us,” he explained.
Billowes also sees potential problems in the future if he wants to hire more British employees.
“In the last 40 years if a British person had asked for a job behind the bar I’ve been able to say ‘of course, go to the Swedish tax authorities, they’ll give you a personnummer, then come back to me’,”
“Before that it was impossible to get a work permit. You couldn’t get a job. That is possibly what we will revert to. I can imagine there will be more red tape involved at a later date.”
And the publican isn’t optimistic about the economic outcome for the UK.
“I trust David Cameron and the top business people, the nine out of ten of them who have said it is going to affect the economy terribly, of course.”