In a letter to the Daily Mirror, Hitachi chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi has said a Brexit would force a ‘rethink’ of the manufacturer’s operations and jobs in the UK, and that this view was shared by international investors such as the parent manufacturers of leasing businesses; Siemens, GE, and Microsoft.
Nakanishi said Hitachi had invested a billion pounds creating jobs in the UK’s rail and energy sectors, but that the ‘critical benefit of investing in the UK’ was that it was the best base for accessing the European market of 500 million people.
Nakanishi added: "There are other reasons like the size of the UK market, availability of local and international talent and the support of our local communities – which is why we take a positive view of the UK inside Europe. Therefore we have our regional headquarters here and moved our global rail headquarters to London. But take away the UK’s membership of the EU, and the future investment case looks very different."
Nakanishi also mentioned Nissan and Toyota’s arrival in the UK in the 1980s on the basis that if they produced cars in the UK and employed a British workforce then they would be treated as European companies.
"This was only possible because Britain was inside the EU; and so the UK car industry was revived and became an exporter again," said Nakanishi.
According to Nakanishi, Japanese companies account for 140,000 jobs in direct employment and supply chain in the UK. He said a survey of these 140,000 employees revealed that 95% did not want to leave the EU because of the threat to their employment.
He said: "We worry because those advocating Brexit have no answer to how the UK could negotiate cost-free access to this huge market from a position outside it. It would take a long time and result in uncertain market conditions; during this renegotiation period, investors would probably be waiting to see the outcomes, hold back on investment, and jobs would be lost. This is the cold economic reality of Brexit."
Microsoft UK chief executive Michel Van der Bel said in a written statement: "Historically, the UK being part of the EU has been one of several important criteria that make it one of the most attractive places in Europe for the range of investments we have made.
"Our commitment to our staff and business here remains firm, but we also believe the UK remaining in the EU supports important criteria for continued and future investment by Microsoft and others."
Robert Gordon, chief executive officer at Hitachi Capital (UK), commented: "The UK is a very important market for Hitachi Capital and we will continue to fully support our customers. Negotiating a stronger position for Britain within the EU is preferable to being outside it."
Representatives of Siemens Financial Services declined to comment.