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UK financial firms intensify search for property in Dublin

Property: Dublin city
Property: Dublin city

UK financial firms have intensified their search for property in Dublin and applied for licences with Ireland's central bank as they look to retain their passage to the European single market.

Property giants CBRE and Colliers have seen interest shift up a gear in recent weeks as UK companies look to secure more office space in the Irish capital as Brexit looms.

It comes as Cyril Roux, deputy governor for the Central Bank of Ireland, said there had been a rise in the number of UK companies looking to secure Irish passporting rights.

Ireland's central bank is currently bolstering staff numbers by more than a quarter in its insurance supervision directorate as it prepares for a rise in applications from London-based insurers.

In a speech to the Institute of International and European Affairs, he said: "Since the UK referendum, there has been a material increase in the number of authorisation queries from UK-authorised entities.

"Many of these engagements have been preliminary in nature. But several have moved into the pre-application or application phase, and this is likely to continue in the coming months as UK firms prepare for the possibility of a loss of passporting rights into the EU."

London's financial firms have become increasingly concerned about their ability to trade with Europe if the UK Government opts for a "hard Brexit" and pulls Britain out of the single market.

They are waiting with bated breath to discover whether the UK can hold on to passporting rights which allow lenders to trade freely across EU.

Marie Hunt, CBRE's executive director and head of research in Ireland, said financial companies have now started visiting office buildings and looking more closely at availability, while asking detailed questions about access to skilled workers.

"In the aftermath of the Brexit vote there was a lot of interest, but a lot of it was scoping out to see how the cost of rent compared to other financial centres such as Frankfurt, Berlin and Paris.

"In the last couple of weeks we have seen a lot more inquiries turning into real requirements.

"If you look at Dublin or indeed other Irish cities, you can understand the appeal compared to other European cities because it is English-speaking, euro-denominated and in close proximity to the UK. This is before you consider its favourable rate of corporation tax of 12.5%."

Ms Hunt said to date most of the requirements for office space are for around 15,000 to 20,000 square feet (1,400 to 1,900 square metres).

The uncertainty surrounding Brexit has seen rival European financial centres launch a charm offensive on London's banks and businesses, encouraging them to shift their operations to Dublin, Frankfurt or Paris.

Nick Coveney, director business space at Colliers International, said interest from financial firms in Dublin office space has ramped up over the past two or three weeks.

"There is a lot of work being done by these companies at the research stage and where they have a presence in Ireland already they would like to grow their employee numbers further.

"The financial consultant firms we have spoken to are looking to set up a small office of around 3,000/5,000 square feet (280/465 square metres), while we are also seeing larger companies looking to expand their existing office space to between 30,000 and 50,000 square feet (2,800 - 4,645 square metres) plus."

According to TheCityUK, a so-called "hard Brexit" - where Britain leaves the single market in order to take a tighter grip on immigration - could cost the City of London 75,000 jobs.

Katie Daughen, head of Brexit research at the British Irish Chamber of Commerce, said: "The current wave of companies looking to establish a base in Ireland continues a trend that began earlier this year when Credit Suisse opened a trading floor in Dublin for its prime services business in Europe.

"In addition to working with UK firms looking to relocate to Ireland, we are also working to help Irish businesses to secure a base within the UK to protect themselves from any future barriers to trading."