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Hamburg's economic ties with Britain

Britons vote Thursday on Brexit. Leaving the EU could impact Hamburg's economy

Hamburg is often referred to as the “most British” of all German metropolis and the city’s long tradition of economic ties to Britain dates back many centuries. In 1266, Hanseatic merchants opened a trading office called the Steelyard in London. From 1567, the “Right Worshipful Company of Merchant Adventurers of England” did trade with cloths in Hamburg. And in 1926, the British American Tobacco Co (BAT) opened a subsidiary in the Elbe city. Britons go to the polls Thursday to vote on whether to leave or remain in the EU. Many in Hamburg will be watching the “Brexit” vote with keen interest.

Impact on north German economy

A “Brexit” would have a significant impact on the north German metal and electrical industries, a recent survey published by NORDMETALL and its sister association AGV Nord on June 7, has found. Some 62 per cent of companies say their business would be at least partially effected, while 8 per cent say the effect would be very strong, the results showed. Both associations represent over 700 firms with 150,000 employees in Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania, Bremen and north-west Lower Saxony.

Should Britons vote to leave the EU on June 23, over 60 per cent of the surveyed firms expect higher customs or logistics to impair trade. A total of 50 per cent of the firms interviewed sell products to Britain and 30 per cent purchase goods there. A third of companies questioned earn more than 5 per cent of their turnover through business with Britain.

120 Hamburg-based firms have branches in Britain

Firms in Hamburg export around 10 per cent of goods to Britain making it the second most important trade partner. Pharmaceutical products and aircraft top the list of exports while oil; natural gas and petroleum goods are the top imports. German products sell well on the British market, which is also the gateway to markets throughout the Commonwealth. Some 120 Hamburg-based companies have branches in Britain. In 2015, Hamburg “ welcomed over 130,000 British tourists.

Many British tourists visit Hamburg

Visitors from Britain also play a key role in tourism in Hamburg. Since 2015, Britons clocked up 280,000 overnight stays in Hamburg. That means Britain is the third most important foreign market for Hamburg. In the first quarter of 2016, Britain’s share of tourism in Hamburg increased 6.4 per cent to 90,100 overnight stays putting it second in Hamburg’s rank Top 10 incoming-rank, according to Hamburg Tourismus GmbH (HHT). And Hamburg is home to over 4,000 Britons. Since 1990, Hamburg has hosted the “British Flair” event, which will next be held from August 6-7, 2016.

Supporters of “remain” vote

During the traditional Matthaie-Mahl or banquet in the Hamburger Rathaus on February 12, 2016 at which British Prime Minister David Cameron was an honorary guest, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Britain to remain in the EU. She said: “I would like to see the United Kingdom remain an active member of a successful European Union.” Olaf Scholz, Mayor of Hamburg, had wished to send a clear signal with his invitation that Britain is and should remain an important EU member. During his address, Scholz welcomed Britain’s role in Europe and told Cameron: “Your country has achieved plenty in an for Europe.” Britain had contributed a lot towards the EU’s further development, he added.

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