The boss and co-founder of British cosmetics giant Lush has said all future expansion of his business would be made through Germany, rather than the UK, following the referendum to leave the EU.
Mark Constantine, who co-founded the Dorset-based business with his wife, Margaret (aka Mo), 21 years ago, told the Bournemouth Daily Echo the pair wept when the Leave vote was announced two weeks ago.
Plans are already afoot to open a new factory in Düsseldorf, and Constantine said that in future Lush's international operation would be led from there.
“Mo said when she went to Germany last week it was awfully sad to see that’s where the centre of things would be in the future and not here," he said. "But we don’t know that yet. All we know is we’re moving our mainland European production over there, along with those people who wish to go.”
He said any staff based in Poole but born overseas would be offered jobs in Germany if they wanted to move.
“All those people have been told they’re not welcome and not wanted by people in Poole," he said, "because Poole voted against it [remaining in the EU]."
In Poole 58% of those who voted in the referendum voted to leave the EU.
Jobs will not necessarily be lost, but there will be no future jobs created in the UK from Lush, according to Constantine.
“It’s not a question of cutting local production, it’s a question that the growth is going there,” he told the paper.
Lush employs 1,400 people in Poole, a third of whom were born outside the UK. Constantine said staff there spend around £4.6 million locally, including around £700,000 in council tax.
The business has stores across the world and has rapidly expanded in recent years to North America and mainland Europe.
Constantine also criticised Tory prime minister David Cameron for resigning following the referendum result and prominent Leavers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove for failing to offer solutions, adding that it will take three to four years for the economy to recover.
Signs are already emerging that companies are looking to recruit fewer new staff following last month’s referendum.
Consultancy firm CEB said that in the week before the referendum almost 1.5 million jobs were advertised online, but that this fell to less than 820,000 the following week.
Brian Kropp, HR specialist at CEB, said: "This is an early indication that UK-based companies are pulling back from hiring following the EU referendum result.
“At this stage it is unclear if this is an early shock reaction from employers and whether this trend will continue; however, if recruitment budgets do contract and open head counts are frozen, it will certainly have a negative impact on the UK economy.”
The tech sector in the UK has also warned that job hiring could freeze up as non-British workers look for jobs elsewhere in the EU rather than heading to London’s tech hub.
A spokesperson for Lush said in a statement to BuzzFeed News:
Over the 21 years we have been trading, whether enjoying periods of unencumbered growth or weathering economic difficulties, political uncertainties and times of recession, protecting the jobs and livelihoods of those who already work with us has always been an uppermost priority.
As the uncertainties brought about by the Brexit vote unfold, we will need to react and adapt to keep our business profitable in order to protect the jobs of those who currently work with us.
But no matter what uncertain future awaits, we will remain a proud British business, with a global clientele and an international outlook.
Simon Neville is business editor at BuzzFeed UK and is based in London.
Contact Simon Neville at email@example.com.
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