Microsoft UK boss makes the case for Europe

Microsoft's UK boss has sent a letter to staff outlining why the firm believes the country is better off remaining in the EU

The battle over the future of the UK's role in Europe is starting to reach a crescendo as the referendum date looms closer and more of the IT industry is revealing where it stands on the issue.

Early on in the debate some of those in the IT community were happy to put their names to a letter published in a national newspaper backing continued membership of the EU.

That list of 200 signatures included: Sir Peter Rigby, CEO and chairman of the Rigby Travel Group, Phil Smith, chief executive UK&I, Cisco, David Stokes, CEO of IBM, Vittorio Colao, CEO of Vodafone, Michael Keegan, executive director EMEIA Fujitsu, Seb James, chief executive Dixons Carphone, Dido Harding, chief executive TalkTalk and Gavin Patterson, chief executive BT Group.

One name missing from that list was Michel Van der Bel, UK CEO of Microsoft. But anyone wondering which way the local leadership at the software giant were fighting for will now know it is to also remain in Europe.

Microsoft's UK boss has sent a letter to staff outlining its view and the reasoning behind it to make the case against Brexit.

The letter started by highlighting the questions about its position on Europe that had been asked by partners, as well as staff and customers.

Van der Bel stated that the vote was very much a question for individuals but, "as a business that is very committed to this country, our view is that the UK should remain in the EU".

"We have a long history here. It's where we opened our first international office in 1982 and we have been investing in the UK ever since. We have more that 5,000 highly qualified people working in fields including support, marketing, gaming, communications, cybersecurity and computer science research," he added.

"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. At key moments in our international growth we have specifically chosen to invest in our capabilities here in the UK," stated the letter.

There was also a reference to the recent move to invest in data centres in the UK and the choice of Cambridge as the location for its first overseas R&D laboratory.

"The flexibility of doing business attracts the best people, and the investment that follows them, to the UK," he concluded.

Microsoft and a few others might have decided where they stand on Brexit and are putting their eggs in the remain basket but should Brexit happen many firms in the ICT sector will be left wondering what to do next.

According to a survey from law firm Pinsent Masons only 35% of IT and telecommunications firms have developed a plan to deal with what would happen if the leave campaign won the day at the referendum on 23 June.

The law firm also had a look at firms across the UK, France and Germany and found that only 26% had a plan in place with most choosing to follow a 'wait and see' policy.

Guy Lougher, who heads Pinsent Masons' Brexit advisory team, said that waiting to see what happens in June was not the best policy.

"Our advice to businesses is to start taking steps now," he added "While one cannot protect against all risks, it is possible to identify the risk areas and start thinking about how these could be mitigated. Many businesses now admit to being in denial during the Scottish referendum about how close the vote would be. People are more switched on this time, but I think find the prospect of Brexit a little overwhelming."

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