Mixed reaction from industry as UK votes to leave EU

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51.9 per cent of the UK voted in favour of leaving the European Union

The mobile industry has given a mixed reaction to the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU), with some of the major players reiterating their commitment to the UK to Mobile News.

The UK electorate took part in a landmark vote over membership within the EU yesterday (June 23), with 51.9 per cent choosing to “Leave” the union the UK has been a member of since 1973.

The remaining 48.1 per cent of voters opted to back the Remain campaign, which was led by Prime Minister David Cameron, who has since announced plans to step down by October. The UK will now initiate Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which dictates the process for a state leaving the union.

Last month, mobile operators overwhelmingly backed the campaign to remain in the EU, claiming a ‘Brexit’ could damage the UK and put jobs at risk.

Minimal impact

A spokesperson for EE-parent company BT said: “We’ll work closely with the British Government and EU during negotiations to ensure BT’s views are heard as our goal is to protect the interests of our customers, employees, shareholders and business.”

BT Group CEO Gavin Patterson had previously backed the EU single market, claiming a fifth of the telecoms giant’s revenues are made outside the UK, most of which comes from Europe.

Vodafone also has a strong presence in the EU, running operations in 14 countries including the likes of Ireland, Italy and Germany.

A Group spokesperson claimed the vote to leave won’t dramatically change its UK business.

“In terms of the implications for Vodafone,” the spokesperson said, “each of our country businesses operates as a standalone entity able to adapt to a wide range of local conditions.”

Liberty Global, parent company of Virgin Media, echoed Vodafone’s comments: We respect the outcome of today’s vote and expect it will have little discernible impact on Virgin Media or our broader European business.”

EU regulation that could impact the industry includes recent changes to roaming, which means operators must charge the same for using a mobile across the all member states. These rules are set to come in to force in June, but with a Brexit, these rules may no longer be applicable.

Huawei has just announced plans to continue its investment in the UK, but the Chinese manufacturer pledged to continue with this, despite the vote to leave the EU.

A Huawei spokesperson added: “Huawei remains committed to providing value to our customers, partners and local communities in the UK and Europe.“

Disappointment

O2 has, however, shown disappointment in the ‘Leave’ decision. The operator, which was subject to a takeover bid from CK Hutchison which was rejected by Brussels last month, told Mobile News it would be stronger by remaining in the EU.

“We believe that large businesses like ours would have been stronger remaining in the EU. Whatever happens next we will continue to fiercely compete in our market, innovate and deliver for our customers,” a spokesperson commented.

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