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June 2, 2016

Cisco UK CEO sticks to Remain and rejects Brexit for EU referendum

News: CEO Phil Smith warns of ‘significant challenges’ in getting the company to continue to invest heavily in the UK if the country leaves the EU.

By Joao Lima

Since May of this year, we have known which side of the EU fence Cisco sits on in the Brexit debate with global CEO Chuck Robbins voicing support for the remain camp.

UK&I CEO Phil Smith expanded on Cisco’s position for the UK to remain in the EU, telling CBR: "The company, myself and our global CEO Chuck Robbins, find the UK would be better off inside the EU. There is a whole sea of areas on why we believe it is beneficial [to stay in the EU]. The level of disruption that it causes [if the country leaves the EU] being one."

Smith joins an ever-groing coalition of businesses stating that leaving the EU would have far reaching ramifications for the UK. Reflecting the almost daily rhetoric of exchange rate fears, global partnership worries and economic instability, Smith warned that the UK does not ‘need that kind of uncertainty for the next couple of years. That would be very damaging for the UK."

However, it seems that the uncertainty surrounding the referendum is alreadyhitting UK businesses with Smith finding that small businesses are deferring decisions until after the polls have closed on June 24.

"At the moment, they are uncertain about the exchange rate fluctuation and so on. That is bad enough running up to the referendum, but my sense is that if we pull out of the EU, we could have a couple of years of that level of uncertainty."

As for Cisco’s operations in the UK, the CEO said he faces "heavy competition from Paris, Berlin, Rome, Israel, and other places" and does not discard the possibility of the company "putting its money and its resources" in one of those markets.

Smith said: "Trying to encourage companies like Cisco to invest more in the UK is important. [A Brexit] would probably cause us significant challenges over the next year or so, in making sure that we continue to get the company’s support to keep investing, as we want to.

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Smith also waded into the debate over the differing ways in which the Stay and Leave camps have conducted their campaigns, saying: "I do think that there are some messages that could be more carefully thought out than we portray. We need to stress the positives so the people do not feel this is all about a political battle for a particular cause, rather than something that is about making life better for them," he said.

At a business level, Smith said it is slightly more straight forward as people in this environment tend to look at things in a more balanced way.

Smith said: "My sense is that you do not want to build an artificial divide into relationships if you can. We need to pull things together rather than push them apart. My sense is that we need to be looking at ways of cooperating further.

"Yes, there are problems with the EU, it is not perfect, but there are real advantages for a strong EU going forward, and I think that putting an artificial divide, when the world should be coming more connected is probably not a wise thing to do.

"[If we do leave the EU] I am sure the UK would survive. We are a strong economy, a strong country, but in today’s world, where everything is moving really quickly, we have to keep the momentum."

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