European Corporations Urge U.K. to Remain in EU
LONDON—As the U.K's referendum on European Union membership
nears, many of the continent's biggest corporations are stepping up
their own public push to convince Britons to vote to remain in the
British aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC on
Wednesday joined a handful of other multinationals expressing its
support for Britain to remain in the EU directly to its employees.
Chief Executive Warren East, in an email to the company's U.K.
staff, laid out the company's case for continued membership in the
Inditex SA, meanwhile, the Spanish retailing giant with brands
including fashion chain Zara, used its financial results on
Wednesday to urge Britons to vote to remain in the EU.
"While respecting the decision of the people in the U.K., we
believe that a Europe without the U.K. would be weaker just as the
U.K. itself would be weaker outside Europe," said Inditex Chief
Executive Pablo Isla, citing an open letter he signed along with
representatives from over 50 European companies.
In the letter dated May 31, Mr. Isla and leaders of other
heavyweights such as French cosmetics company L'Oré al SA, Swiss
Nestlé SA and oil giant BP PLC said the European Union has given
the bloc bargaining power in international trade negotiations and
allowed companies and industries to succeed against "external
While many of Britain's biggest companies have been outspoken
about the risks of a so-called Brexit, or British break from the
EU, fewer have warned of specific and significant disruption to
their business. And many of Britain's smaller companies have been
outspoken advocates for a break.
Brexit supporters have said the U.K. could quickly hammer out
new trade pacts to cushion any blow from leaving the EU trade bloc.
And smaller business owners in particular have chafed at what they
say is overbearing EU regulation.
William Hynett, chief executive of Britten-Norman, a
170-employee maker of small planes based on the Isle of Wight, is
using one of his company's planes to tow a banner across the U.K.
urging a vote for Brexit.
"Like all other U.K. firms, whether they understand it or not,
we are encumbered by European red tape, which in itself adds costs
to our business," he said.
Roll-Royce, one of Britain's marquee blue chips, has long
publicly opposed Britain leaving the EU. But Mr. East's email
represents a more personal appeal to the company's Britain-based
employees, though Mr. East specifically didn't ask employees to
vote either way.
"It is in the company's interests to remain a member," Mr. East
wrote, adding: "The long-term consequences of leaving the European
Union are not clear and uncertainty is unsettling for business, as
it limits any company's ability to plan and budget for the
Ian King, chief executive of British weapons maker BAE Systems
PLC this month also communicated the company's stance on EU
membership directly to employees, while also avoiding asking them
to vote one way or the other. Business benefit from stability which
membership in the EU provides, he said in a blog posting on an
internal company website.
The U.K. is home to the world's second largest aerospace
industry by sales after the U.S., according to ADS, Britain's lobby
group for the industry. The sector generated £ 31 billion ($44
billion) in sales last year and had 128,000 direct employees. The
broader sector, including defense, security and space operations,
generated £ 65 billion in sales, the trade body said.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 15, 2016 08:35 ET (12:35 GMT)
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