Cisco's CEO Chuck Robbins has joined the litany of business leaders calling for Britain to remain in the EU, telling CRN in an interview that a Brexit would be a "big mistake".
When asked by CRN yesterday at this year's Cisco Partner Summit in San Diego, Robbins said a Brexit would be bad for UK business and the British IT industry.
"I think it's bad for Europe and I think it's bad for Britain," he said. "If you look at what's happening across Europe today, even across Latin America, there is an understanding that in order to create jobs and start-up communities and allow them to build businesses at scale, the whole notion of a single digital market is to actually deal with that issue.[And that single market] creates the ability for companies to operate efficiently."
During his keynote address, Robbins said he has met with 17 heads of state already this year, and he said that many of these figures say they are looking to come together across markets rather than pull apart.
"I have talked to some of the leaders of Latin America that want to do the same thing: create a digital single market in Latin America," he said. "You don't want these companies to get started and then feel like they have to move to the US or somewhere else to have a big enough market. I think that's just one example around how Britain leaving Europe would be bad.
"I think right now the need to come together and drive consistency in Europe is paramount and this just flies in the opposite direction. So I think it [a Brexit] would be a big mistake."
Robbins' support for the British tech scene is not just rhetoric; in the last five months alone Cisco has bought UK conferencing firm Acano for $700m (£461.51m) and British security company Portcullis. Last summer the networking giant announced it was ploughing $1bn into the British economy following a meeting between David Cameron and Cisco's previous top dog John Chambers. As part of this investment, Cisco also moved to a new 27,320 square feet London office in November.
Robbins told CRN the overall investment supports the channel by helping to produce employees, and plug the skills gap.
"When you look at these investments in these countries, and the UK in particular, a significant amount is spent on education, creating skills and workers that fundamentally can be employees of the partner community over time," he said.
He also said it helps to develop companies that provide solutions the channel can use or even acquire.
"In many cases we are investing in innovation centres where there are start-ups that are being built. [These start-ups] can create applications that partners can use as part of a holistic solution or in some cases may actually be acquired by partners to create application development skills. We have also got investments in smart city work in Manchester. It's a combination of all those things as well as partnerships with universities for research."
The UK is not the only country Cisco has invested in, with it having also implemented similar schemes in France and Italy in recent months. Robbins said these schemes can have far-reaching effects on how governments think about technology.
"We think in general it helps not only create more of an educated workforce as technology becomes more prevalent in every job," he said. "It also ultimately helps these leaders and governments think about how they can deliver citizen services more effectively, how you can run cities more efficiently. So we have initiatives running in a number of cities around the world."
Robbins' warning came as it emerged the CEO of Rolls-Royce argued leaving the EU would drive up costs and prices in a letter to all its workers in Britain.
But not all UK businesses feel the same, with more than 200 bosses of small firms signing an open letter appearing in The Telegraph urging Britain to leave the EU. The letter urged voters not to listen to "a minority of managers from Britain's largest companies" who want to remain in the EU.
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