Financial News

  • 27 January 2014, 15:07

Nestl?hair Warns Over UK Exit From Europe

The consumer goods giant Nestle would be forced to re-evaluate the extent of its presence in the UK if Britain decided to leave the European Union, its chairman has told Sky News.

In an interview during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe said the company was committed to its business in the UK but that he could not envisage a separation from its biggest trading partner being in the country's interest.

Nestle, which makes Nespresso coffee capsules and Kit-Kat chocolate bars, employs approximately 8,000 people in the UK and accounts for exports worth roughly £400m. Its other brands include Nescafe, Smarties and Yorkie.

"From a purely economic point of view, I can't see that the withdrawal of the UK [from the EU] would be favourable for any UK industries," Mr†Brabeck-Letmathe, an Austrian, said.

"It would isolate the UK economically. Every company would be forced to re-evaluate the implications of investing in the UK. It would no doubt have an impact on its ability to supply European markets."

The warning, ahead of a likely referendum on Britain's EU membership in 2017, echoes the views of many of the multinational business leaders gathered in Davos.

Prime Minister David Cameron told Sky News on Thursday that he did not believe the Government's stance on EU membership was jeopardising inward investment, saying that companies had been "voting with their feet".

He said: "The argument I make with these business leaders is that the best thing for Britain would be to secure our place within a reformed European Union.

"Simply saying 'let's hope this issue goes away, let's hope that Europe sorts itself out', without doing anything, won't work.

"We need to get in there, change Europe, make it work better, make it more competitive, make it more flexible - help make Britain more comfortable with its membership, have that referendum and then settle this issue."

Mr Brabeck-Letmathe, who also chairs the parent company of Formula One motor racing, said the EU and its single currency had been "an incredible success".

"The EU is full of failures and weaknesses like any large institution, but its achievements are greater. We have to work to strengthen the internal market."

He suggested that the trading bloc's governing mechanisms required reforms such as shrinking the number of EU Commissioners.

"The current system is not an efficient way to run it," he said.

In addition to his corporate roles, Mr Brabeck-Letmathe has also been a leading advocate of water stewardship in large companies, and unveiled new measures this week aimed at improving global water sustainability.

†:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.