EU referendum: none of the UK’s most successful tech firms support Brexit

The tech companies against the UK’s exit from the EU include Zoopla, Just Eat, Ve, TransferWise and Funding Circle.

Zlata Rodionova
Wednesday 18 May 2016 09:50 BST
Vehicles negotiate the Old Street roundabout in Shoreditch, which has been dubbed 'Silicon Roundabout'
Vehicles negotiate the Old Street roundabout in Shoreditch, which has been dubbed 'Silicon Roundabout' (Getty)

None of Britain’s so called unicorns, the name for tech firms valued above $1 billion, is in favour of a vote to leave in next month’s European Union referendum, according to a new report.

The companies against the UK’s exit from the EU include Zoopla, a British property website; Just Eat, an online food delivery service; Ve, an e-commerce technology company and financial technology start-ups TransferWise and Funding Circle.

The remaining nine unicorns in the UK told the Guardian that they were officially neutral or declined to comment.

“We believe it would be crazy for the UK to leave the EU, both for businesses and consumers,” Taavet Hinrikus, the co-founder of TransferWise, told the paper.

Funding Circle said a successful, well-functioning Europe is crucial to "a business like ours" and that this was best achieved by remaining in Europe.

Alex Chesterman, the co-founder of property website Zoopla, said leaving the EU would lead to both economic and political uncertainty which could have a negative impact on UK’s currency, borrowing rates, house prices and wider consumer prices.

“Using the prime minister’s marriage analogy, perfect unions are hard to come by and we believe that we would be far better off working on ways to make it more effective from within than by throwing in the towel with no opportunity to impact it in the future,” Chesterman said.

David Brown, the chief executive of Ve, said leaving the European block was not sensible.

“From the perspective of a tech business in London I don’t think Britain leaving Europe is sensible in the slightest. In fact, I believe we should further increase our ties with Europe on a trade and economic basis,” Brown said.

Brown also added that Brexit would play into the hands of the American capital market and the tech industry.

“Innovation is far more prevalent in Europe than the US, but the capital is in the US and it is time this balance was addressed. A single currency, a united marketplace and consolidated financial markets across Europe would allow the UK to stand shoulder to shoulder with the US and would drive a seismic shift in the tech industry,” he said.

The online food and delivery service Just Eat said Brexit would not directly affect its own business but the company “feels a close affinity” with its European colleagues and thinks it would be favourable for Britain to remain in Europe.

Rightmove, the online portal for home sales and lettings and Asos, the fashion online retailer, were both among companies that declined to comment.

Skyscanner, the search engine for flights, hotels and car hires, said it is not taking an official stance on the debate.

The founders of many of Britain’s well knows start-ups such as Deliveroo but also tech successes such a BlaBlaCar and Blippar along with Martha Lane Fox, a Twitter board member and Arnaud Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter previously said Brexit risks undermining their businesses.

Zoopla is one of 13 new European unicorns in the past year
Zoopla is one of 13 new European unicorns in the past year

“Of course the EU isn’t perfect; but rather than cutting ourselves off from the opportunities it offers, it is better to be on the inside helping shape the rules of this market instead of just being subject to them,” the entrepreneurs and founders said in an open letter published in the Financial Times in April.

Boris Johnson, former Mayor of London and now leader of the Leave EU campaign paid a visit to Cornwall over the weekend, where he warned against migrants coming to Britain without jobs. Polls indicate that lowering net migration is the single most important issue for those intending to vote to leave the EU.

“I think we've got a crazy situation now where we can't control immigration from the 28 countries in the EU,” Johnson said.

Top-ranking institutional economists, however, issued warnings about Brexit last week.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the event could cause a sharp collapse in the value of the pound, while the IMF’s managing director Christine Lagarde warned the effect of Brexit on the British economy ranged from “pretty bad to very, very bad”.

The public will vote on whether Britain should remain in the European Union on 23 June

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