UK tech doyen Sir Peter Rigby has put his name to a list of British business leaders who support Britain remaining in the EU, and told CRN that a Brexit could create "a more difficult position" for SCC.
Today 198 business figures signed a letter to The Times, which said that following "the prime minister's renegotiation, we believe that Britain is better off staying in a reformed European Union".
A number of leading channel figures were among the signatures, including: Michael Keegan, Fujitsu's EMEIA director; Seb James, Dixons Carphone chief executive; Phil Smith, Cisco's UK and Ireland chief executive; Dido Harding, TalkTalk chief executive and Gavin Patterson, BT Group chief executive.
The most prominent channel figure on the list was the founder of SCC Rigby, and he told CRN that remaining in the EU is critical for his business.
"I think being in the EU is an entirely positive thing," he said. "In our case with SCC and the bigger group of companies I own, we have built an international business and primarily that is a European business. We are profitable, we are effective and we have scale in Europe. For example, our French business is the largest of its type and sector in France [and has] 3,000 people in 23 cities and [it's] a €1bn European business.
"That business is able to compete on level terms, for example, with French businesses and other international businesses. If we were not in Europe that certainly would not be the case; we would be in a much more difficult position in terms of being favoured as a supplier to French business opportunities. We are very much international in nature and I believe that's entirely appropriate to British business as a whole. We have to look to much broader horizons today than ever before and not just to Europe but outside Europe."
Rigby said that SCC's operations could "potentially" suffer from a Brexit.
"As a private, long-established business, we come to terms with whatever the circumstances [we are faced with], but why break it if it's not broken?" he said. "I think Europe works for the UK. Certainly there are aspects of Europe such as the bureaucracy and the Europeanisation of things [that] the government are quite rightly trying to arrest or influence.
"I think that's entirely correct, but it doesn't remove the fact that it's our biggest market [with] 500 million people, on our doorstep, with developed countries that adopt IT on exactly the same basis as we do in the UK. Why would we not want to trade with them?"
He added that mainland businesses could be prejudiced against British firms if the UK were to leave.
"It's not sufficient to be good at what you do or win on merit," he said. "People can adopt a partisan approach and if we were not part of Europe, that would be yet more extreme in my opinion."
While Rigby has come out in support of Britain's EU position, other channel figures believe that a Brexit is the right step forward.
Scott Fletcher, founder of ANS Group, earlier this month told CRN the EU is hurting British SMBs and is an "undemocratic" body, after he signed a campaign pushing for a devolution of the EU's powers.
But Softcat's chief executive Martin Hellawell told CRN he is personally in favour of Britain's position in the EU.
"I've always been brought up [with] a European outlook," he said. "I believe in being part of a greater whole and I've done a lot of business in France and Germany and spent around a third of my working life in the French IT industry, so I feel very much at home in France. I often feel more European than British.
"I feel that us coming together and making it easier for trade is the right thing to do," he added. "I do see negatives as well, particularly bureaucracy and red tape slowing down our agility sometimes is frustrating, but that happens with big organisations.
"I think overall it's worth it and actually I am a big fan personally of immigration and I think our economy would struggle hugely without immigration. I think we are at full employment today and if we had less immigration in our country it would be damaging. All the press around benefit cheating is all scaremongering and it's a very small portion of immigration that does that. The vast majority of immigrants in the UK are very hardworking and pay their taxes like everyone else and they contribute to the economy."
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