Alexander Duwaerts, EBRC : Brexit: why bet on Luxembourg?
If the Grand Duchy and its stakeholders manage to develop a strategic position, the effects of Brexit can turn out to be a great opportunity for the country. British companies wishing to maintain their link with the single market would be well advised to consider what Luxembourg has to offer. Furthermore, when wondering where to develop their business activity in Europe, international players no longer look to London as their first destination.

Only two years are left for the United Kingdom and the European Union to agree on the details of a post-Brexit world. There is considerable uncertainty about the future relations between the British and the Europeans. Economic stakeholders are among the first to reposition themselves in order to keep developing their activities on the continent. And because it is impossible to know the outlines of future trade agreements, many are considering developing positions on our side of the English Channel, to ensure simplicity of access to the single market.

Every week, I meet more and more players willing to develop their activities from Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin,… or Luxembourg. However, despite the importance of its financial centre, the Grand Duchy still isn't widely known as the best place to develop business activity in Europe. In our prospecting efforts, we always have to first highlight the value of Luxembourg itself before putting forward the arguments justifying the opportunity to set up shop here. Too often, the country is still looked at through the lens of past tax optimisation practices. Nowadays, its key features - state-of-the-art infrastructure, connectivity, a multicultural environment and influence at the heart of the European Union's densest economic territory - have to be brought to the forefront.

What we need to do is convince people to come and discover the country, and then our infrastructures. Generally, and to their own surprise, they then discover the benefits of this location. Luxembourg will be able to benefit from the positive side effects of Brexit, but it is essential to intensify efforts to position the country alongside other major European cities. EBRC, for example, has just formalised a partnership with Migsolv (UK) offering colocation services to better support companies from the UK in their migration to the continent. It is up to us, and to other players in their respective fields, while highlighting our presence, to position Luxembourg and to showcase its strengths.

There are many arguments for convincing foreign enterprises to develop their European activities from Luxembourg. The first one is the language of business. Companies discovering Luxembourg especially appreciate the easy access to the authorities and key interlocutors relevant to the development of their business. They can find the entire ecosystem of their major business partners here - lawyers, consultants, banks, and more - people they already know but whose enthusiasm for their country was still unknown to them. The strength of this network is conducive to business. In addition, Luxembourg is an international capital, at the junction of Germanic and Latin cultures. It speaks many languages ​​besides English, the one language shared by all, which is less obvious in Paris or Frankfurt. The second argument to be made is Luxembourg’s quality of infrastructures and connectivity ranking among the best in Europe. We are now able to compete with places like Frankfurt, Paris or Amsterdam. It is up to us to make this fact known and encourage companies to look to Luxembourg for the development of their business. That includes British organisations, of course, but also other international companies, which in the past were more willing to move to London - nowadays quite challenged - for the development of their activities in Europe.

Of course, not all economic players will leave London. Some of the activity will remain there, and oftentimes it will be the heart of the business. But the environment is clearly changing, and so we need to work with business players and allow them, with small teams, to continue their development from Luxembourg. This is what we want to offer, through quality support services that meet their needs in IT and beyond. We want them to be able to find the best way to maintain their link with Europe through EBRC.

If we want to be convincing, we have to fulfil this promise in targeted areas, notably in FinTech, but also in others where Luxembourg has invested heavily in recent years: BioTech, life sciences, healthcare, space, and so on. This way, we will be able to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to us by Brexit.

By Alex Duwaerts
Director Client Development - EBRC