Europe’s business chiefs express concern over independent Scotland

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European business leaders have voiced their concerns over a possible Yes vote in Thursday’s Scottish independence referendum, warning that investment in Scotland may fall or be delayed.

Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of Renault-Nissan, said he and “all my CEO friends” would prefer a No vote.

A Yes “creates a huge uncertainty about what is going to happen, and obviously we do not like that”, he told the Financial Times. “We have big investments in the UK, we have plants in the UK, we have market share, we have teams. It is going to create some uncertainty.”

Ulrich Hoppe, director-general of the German-British Chamber of Commerce in London, said a Yes vote would discourage investment by German groups in Scotland. “German companies in Scotland are overwhelmingly in favour of Scotland staying inside the UK,” he said. “It would lead to a postponement of some [investment] decisions.”

He added: “It will take at least two years before arrangements [for an independent Scotland] are settled, which will be a time of insecurity, so companies will look at the issues twice before deciding to invest.”

However, he said, German companies would be unlikely to leave Scotland in the event of independence because it was a “sizeable” market.

A German banking lobbyist echoed Mr Hoppe’s concerns, saying independence for the Scots “would cost them dearly” and that Scotland’s largest banks could leave the country. “We need more unity in Europe and not more independent little states,” he said.

Some company bosses are concerned the referendum result could encourage other secessionist movements across Europe, for example in Catalonia. Last week Sir Mike Rake, president of the CBI, the UK employers’ organisation, said debates over secession were a “costly distraction” for Europe after six years of economic downturn.

Mr Hoppe warned that, whatever the outcome, secessionist movements were likely to be cheered by the result. “Even if there is a No vote, 40 per cent-plus votes will be Yes,” he said. “This will probably act as a wake-up call to a lot of political leaders.”

Sébastien Bazin, chairman and chief executive of French hotel group Accor, said: “As much as I respect people fighting for autonomy and independence, immediate satisfaction means nothing.”

There is also widespread concern that a UK shorn of Scotland would be more likely to vote to leave the EU in an eventual referendum.

Jacob Wallenberg, the Swedish industrialist, said a Yes victory would spark a chain reaction that could threaten the UK’s championing of the single market in the EU, to the detriment of businesses in Sweden and elsewhere. “My worry is that if Scotland becomes independent, it weakens the UK’s place in the EU. The UK is vital for the London-Paris-Berlin axis in the EU,” he told the FT.

Mr Hoppe suggested that even if Scotland did leave the union, there would be such political turmoil that “there is a question of whether the rest of the UK would have the time and the energy to leave the EU”.

“We are better together also on a European level,” he said.

Reporting by Sarah Gordon, Richard Milne, Alice Ross, Michael Stothard and Adam Thomson

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