Regions ‘less likely to feel Brexit impact on investment’ - legal boss

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The impact on foreign investment into the UK following Brexit is likely to be more acute in London than the rest of the country, the chief operating officer of one the country’s top law firms has said.

Axel Koelsch, COO of Addleshaw Goddard, said that while he had concerns about exiting the EU he did not feel Britain was set to “cut all ties and drift off into the Atlantic”.

Speaking from the firm’s offices in Leeds, Mr Koelsch told The Yorkshire Post that his firm is developing an integrated European offering for its clients in order to prepare them for the UK’s exit from the European Union and said many of the country’s businesses were currently engaged in work to prepare them for Brexit.

He added that events like the political upheaval in Spain should serve as context that volatility is not confined to British shores.

“I am concerned by how good Brexit is for the economy as a whole,” he said.

“The old adage is that we overestimate the impact of things in the short run and underestimate the impact in the long run. It will lead to a shrinkage of London more specifically than the UK as a whole in terms of a place where you put international jobs or business.”

Addleshaw Goddard, 3 Sovereign Square, Leeds.

Addleshaw Goddard, 3 Sovereign Square, Leeds.

And while Mr Koelsch said that the impact on foreign investment into London was likely to be higher than the rest of the UK, he added that the firm was seeing high levels of optimism around its operations,

“We have a pretty uniform positivity across the business,” he said.

“I don’t see any variation. post-Brexit everybody got a bit spooked but by the end of the year we had super-high utilisation levels again.

“What I see now is that we probably have a market which is doing two things at the moment. People are doing the things they saved up doing and to some degree the strategists are looking to get things nailed down before Brexit comes. Both from our business, from what I hear from other firms and from accountants we work with, every one is fully occupied.

File photo of the EU and Union flags. Photo:  Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

File photo of the EU and Union flags. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

“At the same time there is Brexit preparation work that is coming through and we are working with clients who have structures that are European structures, all around the UK, and we are trying to modify them.”

Mr Koelsch joined Addleshaw Goddard in February of this year and forms part of the five-strong executive team reporting directly to managing partner John Joyce.

He said: “What we are working on at the moment is strengthening our presence across Europe and to develop an integrated European offer for our clients.

“If you go and speak to someone in France or Germany, they have their doubts about what is happening with the UK, particularly if you think about how law firms traditionally try to have a central profit pool.

Should Britain be paying to leave the EU?

Should Britain be paying to leave the EU?

“So they will think that, if I have doubts about this guy’s currency is going or his business is going, do I want to put everything together. But that being said, the UK is not just going to cut all ties and drift off into the Atlantic.”

He added: “In the end an economy is still composed of the people, the intellectual capital and the physical capital that we have.

“In the UK we are still good at producing great stuff and good services.

“As long as people live in an environment which is physically safe and has clear business conditions.

“And I think the UK is in a really good place. We always take some of that stuff for granted, look at Spain.”

Mr Koelsch said that the firm’s focus was split very much across the country.

Mr Koelsch said: “Each part of the network has its own role and identity.

“We know that regional centres are really important and that is where we do a lot of our business.

“That is very different from London firms who are just north-shoring work. These are flagship offices for us.

“I am putting through some big changes at the moment and this is where they are going to run from.

“We use this office as a key platform for business services.

“In a way it has become a real hub for many things that we do.”