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25 Feb 2016 11:30am

Deloitte chief executive wants to remain in EU

David Sproul, Deloitte's UK chief executive, is in favour of the UK remaining part of the European Union, while the rest of the Big Four keep their cards close to their chest

The Big Four did not sign the much-publicised pro-EU letter earlier this week but Sproul told economia that he, not the firm, believes Britain is better off remaining a member of the EU.

“The decision on whether to stay in the EU will be informed by a wide range of factors, including political, social and economic,” he said.

“On the business impact, my view is that prospects for growth, prosperity and jobs in the UK will be better if we remain in the European Union. Moreover, I believe that Europe will have a better future with the UK as a leading force for pro-growth, free market policies.”

The rest of the Big Four are largely remaining tight-lipped. EY is not commenting on its position at this stage, while KPMG told economia that it also does not a have a political position, either in favour or against, an EU exit. The firm is focusing on providing facts and insights to its clients in an independent fashion.

Melanie Richards, vice chairman, KPMG in the UK said, “Our focus has been on educating and informing on the issue. The referendum is certainly a key topic of conversation in boardrooms and there’s been a marked uptick in conversations with clients since the beginning of the year about the risks and opportunities it presents. These are more around ‘planning to plan’ rather than ‘having a plan’ because detailed contingency planning in terms of definitive actions is challenging.”

Similarly, PwC has not taken a position on the debate, saying it is still early days and the firm is considering all the facts and information as it becomes available. A spokesperson for PwC said, "The EU referendum debate is uppermost in the minds of our people and our clients. We are increasingly seeing clients in the UK and overseas debating the European issues and the implications of both remaining within Europe and Brexit. The most frequently raised business issues focus on the uncertainty created by any Brexit particularly around jobs, business confidence and the economy.

“As a firm, we have been analysing the potential implications of the referendum outcomes on our own organisation and across the professional and business services sector particularly in the context of jobs, investments and a competitive market.

"In recent years these sectors have provided growth and job creation, and having access to the significant European market is an important element in delivering that growth. We are concerned that the uncertainty created by Brexit would restrict future opportunities for businesses like ours."

As the debate continues, bosses of more than a third of Britain’s biggest companies signed a letter in support of remaining in the EU earlier this week. Almost 200 business leaders, including chairmen or chief executives of 36 companies from the FTSE 100, called for the UK to vote to remain in the EU in the referendum scheduled for June 23. They warned that leaving the EU would “deter investment and threaten jobs” and “put the economy at risk”.

The letter said, “Business needs unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs.Britain will be strong, safer and better off remaining a member of the EU.

Research by the Institute of Directors (IoD) also revealed that six in 10 of its members would vote to stay in the EU. Less than a third (31%) said they would prefer to leave and 9% were undecided.

Richard Tice, co-founder of Leave.EU argued that it is “normal commercial factors which will determine the continued success of British businesses to invest and grow. Brexit will reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens and cost on business, which can be used to invest in more jobs not less.”

London mayor Boris Johnson announced his backing for the “Out” campaign on Sunday. The following day the value of the pound tumbled to a near seven-year low.

Meanwhile, the credit ratings agency Moody’s warned that a decision to leave the EU could lead to a downgrade of the UK’s credit score, adding that the economic costs of an exit would outweigh the benefits.

Sinead Moore

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