Italy is to set up a task force to lure businesses and investors from the City to Milan in the wake of Brexit, the country’s foreign minister announced, reports The Telegraph.
Angelino Alfano said the government would aggressively promote Italy’s financial capital as a viable alternative to London.
“We’re going to set up a task force. The government is on Milan’s side in the post-Brexit game,” the minister said at a conference in Rome. “Who says that businesses that leave London should all go to Frankfurt? We need to be able to attract to Milan businesses that decide to leave London.”
Brexit offered many opportunities for Italy, “and we need to work to make Milan a highly-competitive city in the post-Brexit era,” Mr Alfano said.
The capital of the wealthy Lombardy region, Milan is home to Italy’s main stock exchange, has two airports and boasts Bocconi University, one of Europe’s most acclaimed for business studies and finance. The city’s profile was boosted last year by the success of the Expo world fair, which attracted 20 million visitors, and its fashion and food are big draws for foreigners.
But Milan’s ambitions to lure away firms from the City face numerous obstacles, from language to labour laws. Italy has one of the lowest levels of English language proficiency of any country in the EU – only 34pc of Italians have a working knowledge of English, according to a study by the European Commission - and firms looking to leave the UK might instead opt for Dublin rather than Milan.
High social security costs mean that employees in Milan are more costly than those in London and rigid labour laws make it harder to make workers redundant.
Italy’s legal system is also notoriously slow and inefficient, with court cases dragging on for years and even decades. In the latest annual Ease of Doing Business Survey by the World Bank, Italy ranked 50th out of 190 countries, placing it behind Serbia, Belarus, Moldova and Armenia. Britain ranked seventh.
The survey measures how easy or hard it is to start a business, register property, obtain credit, pay taxes, enforce contracts and resolve insolvency, among other factors.
“In the current cost-conscious environment, I think companies will be concerned at how much more it costs to set up a business in Milan and how much harder it is to get rid of people if needed,” said a British corporate lawyer familiar with both Italy and the City. "Italy’s labour laws make it difficult to fire employees. I think Dublin is a much more attractive proposition.”