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Dublin cashes in on Brexit jitters

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New buildings on the Quayside in Dublin, which is fast becoming a new financial hub for firms wanting to move out of London.

Dublin

BREXIT is turning Dublin into a new financial hub, with the city a top contender for banks, funds and law firms needing a continued presence in the European Union after March 29.

Twenty-seven firms have committed to relocating staff or operations to the Irish capital since Britain's 2016 referendum on leaving the EU, including Barclays bank and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Hermes Investment Management, which is headquartered in London and has £33.5 billion (S$60 billion) in assets under management, is another one of the companies setting up new offices in Dublin.

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"I think all of our clients feel that we are making the appropriate plans in the absence of certainty," said Carol Mahon, the firm's director for Ireland. "We started planning for Brexit since the referendum in 2016."

The firm's plans are based on the possibility of Britain crashing out of the EU.

For a country that fears a major economic hit from Britain leaving the EU, the "Brexit dividend" is very welcome.

"We do not want to try to benefit from somebody else's difficulties," Ireland's Financial Services Minister Michael D'Arcy said at a conference last month. "But... if there are companies in the UK who have a Brexit difficulty, well, Ireland could be part of their Brexit solution," he said.

EY's "Brexit Tracker" puts Dublin as the most popular choice - above Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris - for financial firms opening European offices.

Among them is the goliath Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which in December completed a merger between its UK and Irish units that made its Dublin base the firm's "principal European banking entity".

In January, Barclays received legal approval to move 190 billion euros (S$291.7 billion) of assets to its Irish subsidiary.

"Due to the continuing uncertainty over whether there might be a 'no-deal' Brexit, the Barclays Group has determined that it cannot wait any longer to implement the scheme," a court ruling said.

Ireland has a corporate tax rate of only 12.5 per cent, will be the only English-speaking EU member state after Britain leaves and is just a one-hour flight from London.

Usually grim-faced over Brexit, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar touted the nation as "a unique gateway into the European Union and its single market" in a February speech. AFP