Another major Japanese firm may be ready to ditch Britain over Brexit

  • Japanese retailer Muji is reportedly planning to shift its European headquarters out of the UK because of Brexit.
  • Bloomberg reports that it may move to Germany.
  • The possibility of Muji’s move has emerged less than a week after electronics giant Panasonic confirmed it will shift its European HQ from the town of Bracknell to the Dutch capital, Amsterdam.
  • Japanese companies are worried about how possible Brexit-induced tax changes could impact their profitability.

The Japanese retailer Muji is reportedly ready to move its European headquarters out of the UK in preparation for Brexit, becoming the latest in a line of companies from the world’s third-largest economy in ditching Britain as it prepares to leave the EU.

According to a report from Bloomberg on Tuesday morning, which cites people familiar with the firm’s ambitions, Muji is preparing plans to move its European base to Germany as a result of Brexit, which many Japanese companies believe could have a serious impact on their ability to make money in Europe.

“As a company we’re reviewing the risks from Brexit and always considering all available options,” a spokeswoman for Muji told Bloomberg.

“We have not made a decision on moving our office since no new location has been decided on.”

Muji operates 12 stores in the UK, and employs around 50 staff in its London HQ.

The possibility of Muji’s move has emerged less than a week after Japanese electronics giant Panasonic confirmed it will shift its European HQ from the town of Bracknell to the Dutch capital, Amsterdam.

Japanese firms fear that Brexit could lead to changes in the way the UK taxes corporations, which could in turn lead to higher taxes back in Japan.

Effectively, if the UK lowers its corporate tax further after Brexit, as it has suggested could happen, it could be considered by the Japanese government to be a tax haven.

If that were the case, it could lead to Japanese companies facing back taxes from central government, aimed at discouraging Japanese organisations from having offices in tax havens.

Talk of Muji leaving the UK move comes just over a week after the head of Japan’s biggest business lobbyist said that Japanese businesses are “seriously concerned” about their future in the UK if Brexit uncertainty is not addressed imminently.

“We just can’t do anything,” Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of Keidanren, the Japanese business federation,said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Tuesday. “Everyone is seriously concerned.”

Nakanishi told the FT that Japanese businesses operating in the EU are frustrated – like many UK businesses – by the lack of any real clarity over what sort of Brexit the UK will actually achieve when the Article 50 period runs out in March next year. “Various scenarios get discussed, from no Brexit to plunging into Brexit without any kind of deal at all,” Nakanishi added. “We’re now in a situation where we have to consider what to do in all of them.”

Several major Japanese financial institutions, including Nomura, Sumitomo Mitsui, and Daiwa Securities, have already made plans to move staff away from the UK, and more could follow.

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