LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom has defied the uncertainty over Brexit to land the number one spot in a ranking of how attractive countries are for business investors over the coming year, according to a survey published on Monday.
The UK overtook the United States, holder of the top spot since 2014, which was followed by Germany, China and France, according to EY, an accountancy firm which conducted the survey.
“While the UK’s position may surprise some, given current uncertainty, mergers and acquisitions activity during the period since the 2016 EU referendum has remained strong,” EY said.
Nearly three years after voters decided to take the country out of the European Union, the terms of Brexit remain unclear. The threat of a no-deal shock to the economy was averted, at least for the time being, when Prime Minister Theresa May last week secured a Brexit delay until Oct. 31.
British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday to try to reassure him that Brexit should not affect Japanese investments in the country which employ hundreds of thousands of workers.
The EY survey showed China returned to the top five investment destinations for the next 12 months despite concerns about its trade war with the United States.
The United States was a top destination for nine of the 10 most active cross-border investors, including China, EY said.
The fall in the value of the pound since the 2016 Brexit referendum was not a major driver of foreign investment in Britain, it said.
“By and large, deals are driven by strategic rationale not currency movements,” said Steve Krouskos, EY’s global vice chair for transaction advisory services.
“What hasn’t changed is that the UK has great companies, great talent, great tech and great IP. These assets attract capital. Also, remember the UK isn’t the only country dealing with significant geopolitical challenges.”
The biannual EY survey was based on responses from more than 2,900 senior executives from around the world.
(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Gareth Jones)