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Brexit risks FTSE 100 director brain drain


148 of the 1,069 directors at FTSE 100-listed companies are from an EU member state

The UK economy could be risking a ‘brain drain’ of FTSE 100 directors, according to research by international payment service Opal Transfer.

Of the 1,069 directors at FTSE 100-listed companies 148 are from an EU member state, meaning EU nationals account for 14% of directors at FTSE 100 companies. A quarter (26%) are from overseas (including the EU).

Some firms, such as IAG (50%), AstraZeneca (45%), and Vodafone (31%) have an even higher percentage of non-British directors. Opal Transfer’s report says this data demonstrates the UK's high dependency on EU talent, which it could now stand to lose as a result of Brexit and stricter immigration rules.

The UK government has announced that EU citizens who have been living in the UK for at least five years after a yet to be specified cut-off date will be able to apply to remain in the UK under a ‘settled status’. However, those who have been living in the UK for less than five years after the cut-off date will only be allowed to apply for continued residence under a temporary status.

Gita Petkevica, managing director of Opal Transfer, called on the government to take action to prevent Britain from losing access to high-level director talent. “When considering that 14% of the most talented business minds in the UK come from the EU it drives home the huge risk Brexit poses to businesses here,” she said. “The government should wake up to the stark underlying facts about the economic contribution Europeans make.

“The UK’s flexible labour market, relatively low levels of income tax, and multicultural workforce speaking many languages all add up to a competitive level of remuneration in contrast to the rest of the world. We read about the importance and the value of diversity for business success every day but it’s possible that Brexit could be about to throw away one of the UK’s biggest diversity cards – its EU citizens.”

Petkevica warned that the current lack of clarity could also have an impact. “Exceptions for talented staff will of course be made in the end, but [there is a] risk that uncertainty about ‘settled status’ post-Brexit may put future EU workers – and future directors – off coming to Britain.”