As Britain turns inward, one firm looks to Europe

Wed Jun 29, 2016 7:50am EDT
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By William Schomberg

HUNTINGDON, England (Reuters) - Britain and the European Union are likely to take years to rewrite the rules that govern their business ties after the UK voted to leave the bloc.

Mike Ashmead can't wait that long. The managing director of Encocam, a company that makes crash-test dummies, had planned to hire 120 people between now and 2018 to work at the company's design and production base near Cambridge.

But at a hastily called meeting on Monday, four days after the so-called Brexit referendum, Ashmead and his management team shifted their sights to the continent.

The firm, which currently employs 172 people, immediately began enquiring about grants to open a design center in Spain and is considering Portugal, Ireland, Germany and Poland too.

"We cannot wait for two years to see what will come out of this," Ashmead said in an interview at the firm's headquarters in the town of Huntingdon, part of a high-tech cluster centered around Cambridge.

His worry is not the markets meltdown that was unleashed by Thursday's vote. A plunge in the value of sterling, which touched a 31-year-low against the U.S. dollar earlier this week, is likely to help Encocam’s bottom line.

Eighty percent of its revenues come from exports - including motorcycles and lightweight panels for high-speed trains – which will now be cheaper for buyers, although the aluminum it imports from Germany and Italy will be more expensive.

What worries Ashmead is the likelihood of new immigration rules that could hinder his ability to hire engineers, designers and other skilled workers from abroad. It is a concern that is reverberating among many British employers who have long relied on foreign workers.   Continued...

Project Co-ordinator, Ollie Khabiri, unpacks and checks child size crash test dummies (Anthropomorphic Test Devices) at the headquarters of ENCOCAM, in Huntingdon, Britain, June 17, 2015.  REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo