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Firm warns of relocation from UK

Labour mobility is key, as Vodafone issues threat

Vodafone shopTelecoms giant Vodafone has warned it could move its headquarters from the UK if the EU negotiations lead to a restriction on the “movement of people, capital and goods.”

The company said it was too early in the discussions to make firm commitments but it would “take whatever decisions are appropriate”.

Vodafone said in an email to a number of organisations that EU membership, including the free movement of people, had helped drive its growth.

It employs 13,000 in the UK and has its headquarters in London. However, 55% of group profits in the last financial year came from Europe, with the UK providing just 11%. It is also due to start reporting its financial results in euros, rather than pounds.

Vodafone said the freedom of movement, capital and goods, was “integral to the operation of any pan-European business”.

The company said: “It remains unclear at this point how many of those positive attributes will remain in place once the process of the UK’s exit from the European Union has been completed,” it said.

Vodafone is the seventh largest company listed on the FTSE 100, with 108,000 staff outside the UK.

A number of businesses are now expressing their concern at the potential consequences of not being part of the European single market.

Following a meeting with business yesterday UK Business Secretary Sajid Javid told a news conference: “The biggest issue raised was the need to secure continued access to the single market. While I am not in any position to make promises, I assured everyone that my number one priority will be just that in the negotiations to come.”

After the meeting, Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General,  set out three urgent priorities needed for business.

She said businesses will rise to the challenge post-referendum but reiterated the CBI’s call for the Government to show strong leadership, to form a plan which protects the principles of an open economy and new framework for business engagement with the Government.

She also emphasised the need to recognise the different priorities for the devolved nations. “The UK has a long history of being an open and collaborative trading nation and that must continue,” she sid.

“The Government must communicate and demonstrate that the UK is open for business and investment, including by keeping critical infrastructure projects and spending decisions on track.

“We must give urgent long-term reassurance to the thousands of EU migrants already working in the UK that they can stay here.

“A visible commitment to openness must be at the heart of our new relationship with the EU. In practice this means tariff and barrier free access to the single market; maintaining trade deals around the world; attracting and keeping skills; and working out the trade-offs between these three.”

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