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September 19, 2016

Is Brexit Britain really open for business? Microsoft to close Skype’s London offices

By Ellie Burns

One of the main arguments against Brexit was that it would impact foreign business in the UK, with post-Brexit dialogue pushing the slogan that Britain is still open for business. However, a recent move by Microsoft may prove to undermine this ‘open for business’ mantra, with the tech giant set to shut down Skype’s London offices.

First reported by the FT, the closing of Skype’s London offices will make most of its employees redundant and see an iconic technology brand close its European HQ.

According to the FT, Microsoft said that it has “made the decision to unify some engineering positions, potentially putting at risk a number of globally focused Skype and Yammer roles”, and will be entering into a consultation process to help those affected by the redundancies.

“We are deeply committed to doing everything we can to help those impacted through the process,” it said.

Microsoft’s decision to close the office and let nearly all its 400 London staff go has been met with disappointment from those in the tech sector. Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates and himself a former Skype vice president, said that the office closure was ‘disappointing’ and called the decision a ‘step in the wrong direction’ when it comes to London building a base of world-class tech businesses.

However, closing the London office did not come as a surprise to former employees, who have noted the quiet departures of key executives over the past three years. A former employee talking to the FT said:

“I know it’s natural to integrate, but Skype is a shell of the company it once was. One of the things that was always a big issue for Microsoft was that big decisions at Skype would usually always be made in Europe, not in Redmond. Now, it’s a Redmond, Microsoft-led company rather than an independent Skype.”

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The 400 jobs lost in the closure of the London Skype office will take a big chunk out of the 2,850 jobs Microsoft intends to terminate in the fourth quarter of 2016, with the job losses announced in last month’s annual report from the tech giant.

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