“The chemical and pharmaceutical industry is Hessen’s largest industrial employer and a driving force of innovation. The impact that the UK’s decision to leave the European Union will have is an important issue to the state government of Hessen,” stated Lucia Puttrich. As part of a series of meetings with companies, institutions, and people, Hessen’s Minister for European Affairs visited the Darmstadt based science and technology company Merck. Chemical and pharmaceutical companies in Hessen generate annual revenue of approximately €27 billion and employ around 60,000 people.
Opportunities and risks associated with Brexit
Puttrich discussed the opportunities presented by and the risks arising from Brexit with Dr. Kai Beckmann, member of the Merck executive committee, and other company representatives. There are signs indicating that the UK may officially declare its departure from the European Union in Brussels as soon as early March. This declaration will mark the beginning of an exit negotiation period scheduled to last two years. In particular via the Bundesrat (German Federal Council), the state of Hessen will contribute to shaping the future state of relations with the UK.
“As we are a globally active science and technology company, the sharp rise in protectionist trends witnessed in recent times certainly constitutes cause for concern. We attribute great importance to free trade, freedom of movement across borders, protection of intellectual property, as well as a reliable political, legal, and social environment,” explained Beckmann. Merck employs around 1,400 employees across 17 locations in the UK. A total of 14 other nationalities aside from British are represented among these employees.
Tackling the task at hand in a confident and determined manner
“Brexit is now a reality and we will tackle the task at hand in a confident and determined manner. Hessen is successful, highly productive, and cosmopolitan,” said Puttrich. “Even though Hessen is merely a single state within Germany, its high economic output would place it in the upper mid-range in a comparison of all EU member countries.” Hessen and in particular the Rhine-Main metropolitan region thus represent attractive destinations for banks and companies operating in the real economy wishing relocate their entire operations or a portion of their operations away from the UK. “Our robust infrastructure allows a Frankfurt based traveler to reach any European economic center within two and a half hours. We have a sufficient amount of suitable office space available and are working on solutions to ensure the availability of affordable apartments for people already living here and those still to come.”
Hessen has also begun bundling economic development and location marketing activities and has been holding related discussions with the neighboring state of Rhineland-Palatinate. “Viewed from London, the Rhine-Main metropolitan area does not stop at Hessen’s borders,” commented Puttrich. “We frequently hear from British people already working in metropolitan Frankfurt how much they value living here. They liken the Rhine-Main region to a hidden treasure. In light of this, we should make a point of more aggressively advertising for our region, as we don’t take a backseat to any other European metropolitan region when it comes to quality of life and infrastructure.”