LONDON • Britain's vote to leave the European Union has left more than three-quarters of chief executive officers saying they would consider moving their headquarters or operations outside the United Kingdom, according to a survey of 100 business leaders by the accountancy firm KPMG.
Some 72 per cent of the CEOs surveyed said they voted "Remain" in the June 23 Brexit referendum, said KPMG yesterday in a statement.
While more than two-thirds said they are confident Britain's economy and their own companies will continue to grow over the next year, 76 per cent are mulling over some form of relocation.
"CEOs are reacting to the prevailing uncertainty with contingency planning," said KPMG UK chairman Simon Collins in the statement. "Over half believe the UK's ability to do business will be disrupted once we Brexit and therefore, for many CEOs, it is important they plan different scenarios to hedge against future disruption."
The survey suggests Prime Minister Theresa May has work to do to retain businesses and jobs as Britain seeks a deal with the EU that curbs immigration while retaining the closest trading ties possible with the bloc's 27 other members.
While the pound has fallen by 13 per cent against the US dollar since the vote, some of the direst pre-referendum predictions have failed to come true, particularly about the economic outlook. Still, Mrs May has yet to trigger a formal exit, saying only that she would not begin the two-year process this year.
"Policymakers should be really concerned about a leaching of British business abroad and should engage with business early to understand what assurances they can offer and closely monitor any shifts overseas," Mr Collins said.
Among the handful of UK-based companies that have openly raised the possibility of a move is mobile carrier Vodafone Group.
Airline EasyJet has said it is seeking an operating certificate in another EU country to ensure unfettered access to the bloc after Brexit. Insurer Lloyd's of London may have to move some of its operations out of Britain if it loses access to the single market, chairman John Nelson has said.
Non-UK banks that have significant operations in the British capital London have been more outspoken about the possibility of moving, with executives of JPMorgan Chase and UBS Group warning that they might have to relocate thousands of jobs.
KPMG interviewed 100 CEOs of companies with annual sales of at least £100 million (S$176 million) and at least 500 employees.
The survey was carried out over four weeks from mid-July.