500 British companies have recently shown serious interest in settling in the Netherlands, says the Netherlands Foreign Affairs Investment Agency (NFIA). This is the government askforce that guides foreign companies in investing in the Netherlands.
The rapidly growing interest has everything to do with the Brexit agreement concluded at the end of last year. Although the trade agreement prevented the British and the EU from breaking up with a very chaotic no-deal brexit, the reality for many companies is very unruly.
Since 1 January, British companies exporting to the European Union have been struggling with increased waiting times at the border with endless paperwork and hassle with VAT. Opening an establishment in the EU is the only way for many of them to avoid this wall of bureaucracy.
“ We are seeing an ongoing increase in the number of companies that are reporting to us. They look to see if they can settle in the Netherlands,” says Jeroen Nijland on behalf of the NFIA. “After January 1, it became clear in practice what this deal means and in practice it often means more time and more costs. Thats why theyre considering a switch.”
“All kinds of red tape”
Stewart Superior, a dealer in office supplies, has also decided to open a branch in the Netherlands. “40 percent of our exports go to the European Union,” says Director Geoffrey Betts. “So we as a company are very dependent on a good flow of our products. But because much of what we sell originates from China, we are dealing with all sorts of extra paperwork that makes it very difficult to get our stuff across the border.”
Due to the strict rules of origin in the trade agreement with the EU, only everything produced in the UK can be exported to the European Union without tariffs. No exceptions have been made in the Brexit Agreement for everything that was originally achieved elsewhere in the world. “We have to pay additional import tariffs, every product we export needs a separate barcode, and we suddenly have to count VAT on each transaction, making our products more expensive. Its a bureaucratic nightmare.”
“ You would think that in that 497 pages of this agreement there would have been one page devoted to our situation. But no, nothing was agreed about that. And this really affects hundreds, if not thousands of companies,” says Betts.
For Betts it is even so problematic that he can hardly find any transporters willing to transfer his office supplies to the English Channel. “I get emails from them saying: were not doing it. Its too much fuss. The risk of getting stuck is too great. This shows how serious the situation is.”
From VK to Waalwijk
Betts has therefore decided to open a branch in the Netherlands. He is busy capturing a large warehouse in Waalwijk, so that he can now import his goods directly into the EU. “We were looking for a place near the port of Rotterdam, the most important port of Europe. In addition, the Netherlands has a pleasant location climate, it is tax technical interesting and we are very well supervised. Within a few weeks everything was settled. I have already spoken to many other English companies that are planning the same thing.”
This trend also recognizes the Dutch British Chamber of Commerce, the NBCC. That organization is going to be overloaded with phone calls.
“ We are working almost day and night to help British companies open a branch in the Netherlands,” says Lyne Biewinga on behalf of the NBCC. “British SMEs are mainly looking to the Netherlands because of our good infrastructure, fast digital connections and highly educated and well-English-speaking workforce. This makes the Netherlands one of the favourite locations countries.”