Sweet tax deals, a business-friendly climate and an English-speaking population. The Netherlands is going all out to attract companies leaving Britain post-Brexit in search of a new EU-based home. With less than a year before Britain formally leaves the European Union at midnight on March 29, 2019, the Dutch government has deployed a small army of lobbyists hoping to persuade companies to pick Rotterdam or Amsterdam over Paris or Frankfurt for their new base. Via the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NIFA), an official arm of the economic affairs ministry, the Dutch government is currently "in touch with more than 200 companies," spokesman Michiel Bakhuizen told Agence France-Press (AFP).
"These are companies wishing to leave Britain or international businesses who are looking to set up in an EU country, and from now on, have to avoid London."
So far things have been going well, from a Dutch perspective. Last month the Anglo-Dutch consumer products giant Unilever decided to end its dual-headed legal structure, severing its London base and regrouping around its headquarters in Rotterdam. The company denied the decision had anything to do with Brexit, but that didn't lessen the blow to the British. And Amsterdam is now preparing for the arrival of the European Medicines Agency, after winning a hard-fought battle against Milan to be the new home of the EMA and its 900 staff when it leaves London next year. Dutch officials say they have a good case. The Netherlands has a modern infrastructure, good digital and communications providers, and 90 percent of the population speaks English.
"We're no island," the NIFA says somewhat snidely on it website. "We're on the continent, close to Europe's 500 million consumers, not to mention your business customers."
"Business taxes and the 30 percent tax reduction rule for qualified expats are advantageous," said Bakhuizen, Brexit spokesman at the ministry for economic affairs.
To those still hesitating, the NIFA promises "we roll out the orange carpet," vowing it is a "one-stop-shop" with "tailor-made" guidance for companies wanting to establish or expand in Europe. In 2017, 18 companies chose the Netherlands "for reasons linked to Brexit," said Bakhuizen.