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Why Fujitsu Insists Cutting 1,800 Jobs in the U.K. Wasn’t Tied to Brexit

October 11, 2016

NTT Docomo Inc. President Kaoru Kato Unveils New SmartphonesNTT Docomo Inc. President Kaoru Kato Unveils New Smartphones
Models hold Fujitsu Ltd. Arrows, from left, Sharp Corp. Aquos Zeta, Sony Corp. Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact smartphones during a news conference unveiling NTT Docomo Inc.'s new smartphone models in Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014.Photograph by Tomohiro Oshumi — Getty Images

Japanese electronics giant Fujitsu said on Tuesday it was cutting 1,800 jobs in Britain as part of a “transformation program” but that the move was not linked to the country’s vote to leave the European Union.

Japanese companies had warned in the run-up to the June referendum that a vote to leave could damage jobs and prospects in Britain.

But Fujitsu said in a statement that the job cuts, which amount to 18% of its U.K. workforce, were part of a transformation program across its Europe, Middle East, India, and Africa unit.

“These changes are in no way linked to the decision by the U.K. to leave the EU,” it said. “Fujitsu is committed to the U.K. and is confident in the continued growth of the U.K. economy.”

The job cuts, which the company said would make it more competitive, would affect Fujitsu’s major U.K. sites including Belfast, Bracknell, Crewe, Manchester, Stevenage, Wakefield and Warrington.

The Unite union condemned the cuts.

“This is a hammer blow for these hardworking employees who have given their all to make the UK subsidiary highly profitable,” said Unite’s IT officer Ian Tonks.

The Japanese government published a 15-page report in September warning of the impact Brexit could have on its financial institutions and companies headquartered in Britain.

The report noted nearly half of Japan’s investment into the EU in 2015 flowed to Britain, and requested clarity as to how negotiations with the EU would unfold.

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“What Japanese businesses in Europe most wish to avoid is the situation in which they are unable to discern clearly the way the Brexit negotiations are going, only grasping the whole picture at the last minute,” the report said.

The CEO of Japanese automaker Nissan asked Britain last month to promise compensation for any tax barriers resulting from the decision to leave the EU before it invested further in its plant in Sunderland, northeast England.

The British government announced last week it would trigger the formal legal process of exiting the EU by the end of March 2017, giving some further clarity to businesses affected by the vote.

But Prime Minister Theresa May has said she would not reveal her hand ahead of time in negotiations with European counterparts.