Microsoft and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have nailed their colours to the EU mast as UK government applies pressure on firms to encourage employees, customers and channel people to support the Remain camp.
UK CEO Michel Van der Bel at Microsoft has penned a note in which he stated “first and foremost” the way people decide to vote on 23 June is a “decision for [the] individual” - but with the disclaimer out of the way he launched into the rhetoric.
“We appreciate and respect that there are a range of reasons that motivate people on both sides of the debate, but as a business that is very committed to this country, our view is that the UK should remain in the EU”.
He pointed out Microsoft’s “long history” in the UK, opening its first office in 1982 and “investing ever since”. The company has “more than 5,000 highly qualified” heads working locally and 25,000 business partners.
“Historically, the UK being part of the EU has been one of several important criteria that make it one of the most attractive places in Europe for the range of investments we have made,” said Van der Bel.
“At key moments in our international growth we have specifically chosen to invest in our capabilities here in the UK. Most recently, we announced that we would start offering cloud services this year from new UK-based data centres,” he added.
This is more to do with customers’ concerns about data sovereignty than Microsoft opening its wallet to help out UK Plc.
Van der Bel said the UK’s inclusion in the EU was one of “several important criteria” for basing the R&D labs in Cambridge and the “flexibility” of doing business locally “attracts” the “best people” and the investments that follows them to the UK”.
“Whatever the outcome of the referendum, we respect the decisions made by UK voters. Our commitment to our staff and business here remains firm, but we also believe the UK remaining in the EU supports important criteria for continued and future investment by Microsoft and others,” he said.
At the same time, Andy Isherwood, UK overlord at HPE, said it had “examined” the economic analysis of the “consequences of leaving the EU”, and concluded continued membership “brings a range of positive benefits to our business our customers, our employees and to the UK economy as a whole”.
“These benefits are associated with free trade and access to talent, improved economic stability and consistency in the legislative environment within which we operate across Europe.”
He said the UK’s global financial and legal centre, coupled with academic institutions, made Britain an ‘attractive investment location” for multi-nationals.
“We believe that if the UK were to leave the EU it would be likely to have a detrimental impact on the long-term prospects for employment, research, investment and innovation in this country,” Isherwood added.
IBM’s UK boss David Stokes recently wrote to staff about favouring the UK staying in the Union, and the government is applying more gentle pressure on others to follow suit.
Around 200 large enterprises wrote to national papers in February claiming that exiting the EU would be damaging to investment, and they have been recently urged again to vocalise their support.
The Remain camp contacted myriad companies including multi-national tech businesses to ask if they would put their name to additional campaign literature. ®