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Virgin Media CEO urges Theresa May to bring clarity to Brexit turmoil

As the prime minister prepares to meet EU leaders to begin difficult Brexit negotiations, Virgin Media's Tom Mockridge calls for an end to uncertainty

The head of Virgin Media has warned of dire consequences for the company given the climate of Brexit uncertainty.

On the day prime minister Theresa May meets her EU counterparts in Brussels, following the outcome of the UK referendum vote, Virgin Media CEO Tom Mockridge warned the Tory leader that businesses needed certainty.

“It is incumbent on our new national government, which has been installed to lead this process, to be clear and forthright about how [Brexit] should occur,” he said in a speech at Broadband World Forum in London

“Theresa May, in being more clear about when the government might exercise the Clause 50 exit procedure, has been helpful. But there is still a high degree of uncertainty,” added Mockridge.

He raised concerns that if the economic environment in the UK suffers, the UK could become less attractive for Virgin Media’s parent company, Liberty Global, to invest in.

“But if the economic environment here is going to be relatively less certain and relatively less robust than alternative markets then that makes my job tougher in the environment of internal competition with Liberty Global.

“It is like any foreign investment decision, you can’t be too choosy if you really want to get the investment and make the growth; particularly given that the UK still has a very substantial public debt and it isn’t in a position to fund a lot of public investment itself. So, attracting foreign investment is an important thing to do.”

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Virgin is not the first major technology business to discuss the UK deferring investment following Brexit.

When Computer Weekly visited GE Digital’s foundry facility in Paris, prior to the referendum, the company, regarded by many as a pioneer in the industrial internet, raised concerns over Brexit.

Bill Ruh, head of digital at the US giant, said the 250-person Paris site was part of a series of new GE digital centres. He said a UK site was also on the agenda, but that it might delay opening the facility if the UK were to leave Europe, because all businesses, including GE’s industrial customers, would be reassessing their short-term and mid-term investment plans.

Mockridge also called on Transport for London (TfL) and London Mayor Sadiq Khan to ensure mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity on the capital's Crossrail train service, due to launch in 2017. Virgin Media operates the free Wi-Fi service on London Underground. Digital economy minister Matt Hancock has already promised free Wi-Fi on all UK trains by 2020.

“TfL asks tube travellers to ‘mind the gap’, soon they will be telling Crossrail passengers to ‘whistle for Wi-Fi’.  More than a decade and £15bn in the making and still no plans for WiFi on the busiest part of the Crossrail route," said Mockridge.

“In London Virgin Media supplies the Wi-Fion the Underground stations, but we haven’t been able to get into the tunnels. That’s a Victorian build and you can accept that maybe there is a level of difficulty.  But [with Crossrail] we are building world-class public transport infrastructure and Transport for London says, we’re too busy to think about Wi-Fi."

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