The decision to end its dual headquarters in London and Rotterdam is a symbolic blow to Britain as it negotiates its exit from the European Union.

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LONDON — Unilever said Thursday that it would make Rotterdam, the Netherlands, its sole headquarters, dealing a symbolic blow to Britain as it negotiates its exit from the European Union.

For nearly 90 years, the consumer-products giant — whose brands include Dove soap, Lipton tea, Surf detergent and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream — has straddled the North Sea, maintaining headquarters in London and in the Netherlands.

Investors have pushed Unilever for years, however, to eliminate the dual structure, arguing that doing so would make the company more agile and better able to pursue mergers. Unilever said last year that it would review its legal structure after Kraft Heinz briefly flirted with a $143 billion takeover of the company.

That review has been complicated, though, by Britain’s planned withdrawal from the European Union, known as Brexit, and fears that the company’s decision could be politicized.

Critics of Brexit have argued that leaving the EU could stifle Britain’s economy, particularly if companies who have used London as a European base decide to move some or all of their operations to the Continent in order to stay within the bloc’s customs rules.

British government officials had lobbied hard to persuade Unilever to maintain its London headquarters, in the hopes of avoiding the symbolic blow of a major company being seen to “leave” the country at a delicate time in its negotiations with EU officials. Unilever officials said Thursday that Brexit did not factor into the company’s decision.

“The proposed simplification will provide greater flexibility for strategic portfolio change and help drive long-term performance,” Unilever said in a statement.

It said that its shares would continue to be listed in London, Amsterdam and New York, and that two of its three new divisions would remain based in London: beauty and personal care, and home care. The third division would be located in Rotterdam.

Unilever employs about 7,300 people in Britain and 3,100 in the Netherlands; none are expected to be affected by the structural change. The company also said it would continue to spend about $1.4 billion a year in Britain, including on research and development.

Despite the company’s insistence that it would keep its presence in the British capital, Rajesh Agrawal, London deputy mayor for business, said the decision was “clearly disappointing news” for the city.

“It brings into sharp focus the need for the government to secure a Brexit deal that secures London as Europe’s leading business center,” Agrawal added.

Unilever’s two headquarters mirrored its legal structure, in which the company maintained separate stock listings and corporate entities in both countries after its formation by the combination of the British soap maker Lever Brothers and the Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie in 1930.

Each of the two operating companies technically has its own board, but the boards are made up of the same directors and senior management.

While unusual, the structure has been used by some of the largest companies with ties to both Britain and the Netherlands. The oil giant Royal Dutch Shell maintained a similar system until 2005, and RELX Group, the business-information company that owns LexisNexis Legal and was formerly known as Reed Elsevier, dropped its dual structure this year.

As consumers have shied away from traditional brands in favor of products from smaller companies with more natural and organic ingredients, Unilever has tried to keep pace by buying companies such as Schmidt’s Naturals, Sundial Brands and Dollar Shave Club in recent years.

Nevertheless, simplifying its structure has been a topic at investor meetings for more than a decade.

In the end, the unsolicited bid for Unilever by Kraft Heinz, maker of Heinz ketchup and Oscar Mayer hot dogs, brought the topic to a head. Kraft Heinz withdrew its offer days later on friendly terms, but Unilever said soon after that it would review its structure.

As the company pursued a sale of its margarine and spreads business last year, Unilever said, “it was apparent that our dual-headed legal structure adds complexity when undertaking such changes.”

Uncertainty about Britain’s future relationship with the bloc has weighed heavily on decision-making by a number of companies as they try to determine how to continue to serve customers in Europe.

For example, a number of banks, including HSBC, have announced plans to move some employees to the Continent in order to be able to serve their European customers seamlessly when Britain is set to leave the bloc next year.

Other companies have announced plans to stay and made new investments in their British operations. Toyota said this month that it would make the latest generation of its Auris automobile at its plant in Britain after announcing an investment of 240 million pounds (about $335 million) in the Toyota Motors U.K. business last year.