British companies prepare for long night to possible Brexit

Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:04am EDT
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By Martinne Geller and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - British companies are preparing for the possibility that the country will vote to leave the European Union with extra funds, pre-written statements and plans for late-night vigils by teams of consultants.

In the final week before Britain's June 23 referendum on EU membership, the prospect of a "Leave" vote has come into sharp focus, prompting a last-minute flurry of preparations in the corridors of "UK PLC".

Much of the focus is on communication -- how to assure customers, employees and investors that there will be near-term business continuity in the event of an "Out" vote. Britain would have two years to negotiate its exit, or "Brexit", from the 28-country bloc.

Treasury departments will also be working overtime because a vote for a Brexit would be expected to roil currency markets and have major consequences for trade, the economy and migration in Britain and elsewhere.

Many companies have yet to work out detailed plans, as any post-Brexit picture is unclear and opinion polls had until recently suggested the "Remain" camp was comfortably ahead.

But some have sprung into action since the momentum in the polls swung toward the "Leave" camp in the latter stages of campaigning, which was suspended on Thursday after a British lawmaker was killed.

"The nearness of the vote and sudden increased likelihood of Brexit has definitely sharpened client appetite for draft statements," said a senior executive at a public relations firm, one of three who said this week there had been an increase in client requests for communications advice.

As of February, more than three-quarters of Britain's FTSE 250 companies had not made any contingency plans for a possible exit, according to a survey published in April by the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors.   Continued...

Illustration picture of postal ballot papers June 1, 2016 in London ahead of the June 23 BREXIT referendum when voters will decide whether Britain will remain in the European Union.   REUTERS/Russell Boyce