‘Sweden must do more to tempt UK firms after Brexit’

'Sweden must do more to tempt UK firms after Brexit'
Andreas Hatzigeorgiou wants Sweden to be ready to pounce once Theresa May triggers Article 50. Photos: Maria Agrell/Handelskammaren, Markus Schreiber/AP
Sweden's government has not done enough since the Brexit vote to tempt UK companies to move their headquarters to Sweden, according to Andreas Hatzigeorgiou, chief economist at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce.

While Denmark set up a special Brexit task force the day after Britain voted to leave the EU, the Swedish government has reacted too slowly and risks missing out on lucrative opportunities, the economist claims. 

Britain’s decision to quit the union was regretful, Hatzigeorgiou says, but the government should have acted more swiftly to entice technology and finance firms to set up bases in Sweden, a country with full access to the EU’s common market. 

“We estimate that we only have a year and a half to get Sweden ready to receive investments from the UK,” he told news agency TT. 

The economist listed three areas in need of immediate attention: solving the housing crisis, expanding Arlanda airport, and ensuring Sweden’s tax rules on share options didn’t scare off British companies. 

The government has proposed making it easier for growth-phase firms to offer share options to key employees, but: “The proposals are too limited to make a difference and are confined to small companies for a certain number of years,” said Hatzigeorgiou. 

Enterprise minister Mikael Damberg rejected the criticism, arguing that Sweden had started preparing for Brexit even before Denmark. 

“We were working on Brexit long before it became a reality and we were in London at the end of May to meet Swedish businesspeople and hear about their concerns. We have a working group and are working across the ministries on the possibility of temping firms and authorities to Sweden,” said Damberg. 

“But we are just in the opening straight of our Brexit work. The UK itself does not yet know what sort of regulatory framework it wants to have with the EU,” the minister told TT. 

Britain’s date for leaving the EU remains uncertain. A report in this week’s Sunday Times said it might be delayed until late 2019, with negotiations unlikely to begin until after French and German general elections in 2017. 

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May had previously suggested that exit talks would start earlier next year, but the Sunday Times said this looked unlikely, as the key Brexit and international trade departments were not yet fully staffed. 

The country will have two years to leave the European after it triggers Article 50, the withdrawal clause.