The Netherlands, surprised by Shell, suffered another setback after Brexit

(The Hague) Royal Dutch Shell has had an iconic presence in the Netherlands for more than a century, which makes the oil giant’s intention to move its headquarters to the United Kingdom especially agonizing for the Dutch.


Danny Kemp
France media agency

Which is further irritating the state, as its largest companies want to follow agribusiness giant Unilever to London, despite the hoped-for economic boost from Brexit.

Here are some key questions and answers about Shell’s announcement on Monday:

How old is Shell?

Koninklijke Nederlandsche Petroleum Maatschappij, or the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company, was founded in 1890 to search for oil in the Dutch East Indies, today’s Indonesia.

On April 23, 1907, it merged with the British Shell Transport and Trade Company (Transport and Trade, in French) to take on its chief competitor, American Standard Oil.

Partly due to national sensitivities, the group was a dual-listed company headquartered in The Hague, like Unilever, formed under a similar deal across the North Sea.

Since 2005, Shell is registered in Great Britain but with Dutch tax residency.

What is the impact of the Dutch economy?

Shell is by far the largest Dutch company, with a turnover of €158 billion in 2020.

Dutch media have estimated that moving tax residence to the UK could cost the Dutch treasury “billions” of euros each year.

Among the largest employers in the Netherlands, Shell has over 8,500 employees in the country. Shell stresses that these numbers must remain unchanged.

In addition to numbers, the shell is for the Dutch a national symbol, sticking to the image of the nation turned abroad, merchants and explorers.

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What’s wrong with taxes?

The Dutch seem to have cooled their multinationals in recent years, raising concerns about issues such as tax evasion and the environment.

Despite much criticism, Prime Minister Mark Rutte attempted to abolish the corporate profit tax, led by multinational corporations such as Shell and Unilever.

For their part, multinational corporations have considered the financial and regulatory burdens due to their increasing double-headed weight.

Shouldn’t Brexit spur the Netherlands?

The divorce between Britain and the European Union was supposed to strengthen the Netherlands, but while Amsterdam won out from the financial center of London, not everything was in the Netherlands’ favour.

In 2018, food giant Unilever, in the wake of a shareholder revolt, abandoned a plan to move the company’s headquarters from London to the Netherlands. In 2020, Unilever becomes a unique British company.

Politically weakened after failing to keep Unilever, Mr. Rutte ended up abandoning the unpopular tax cut, much to the chagrin of Shell.

Andrew Mackenzie, chairman, had said the profit tax situation meant Shell “had to go to the UK”.

What is the impact on the climate issue?

In April, a Dutch court ordered the company to cut greenhouse gases, another setback for Shell in the Netherlands.

But the company and the environmental advocates behind the case say the ruling will continue even if Shell moves.

It will have no bearing on the case against Shell. Per de Rijk of Friends of the Earth confirmed that this case would remain under the control of the Dutch court.

Shell said the plans “will have no impact on legal action on climate governance”.

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