Sir Adrian Montague, CBE, the company’s new chairman, was answering a shareholder’s question about the board’s view on the EU referendum.
At first he gave a guarded response. “I am not going to give you any political views on this,” he said.
“It’s perilous for any company chairman to trespass on political territory. It’s perilous to talk about sovereignty. It’s perilous to talk about the package that the prime minister has been able to agree,” said Sir Adrian, speaking at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London.
He continued, “We won’t tell anyone how to cast their vote, we might urge you all to vote for or against, because it’s an important issue. But I’m not going to tell anybody how to vote. All I’m going to do is tell you the company’s narrow view on the implications of a Brexit.”
A shareholder in the audience stood up to call for a ‘point of order’. “We are not interested in the political views of the board on this issue,” he said.
“I agree, I am not going to give you any political views,” responded Sir Adrian.
“What pre-occupies the board is the uncertainty that we would face if there is a vote to leave the European Union,” he continued.
“We would see the risk of serious short term financial disruption… We like understanding the risks that we’re running, but we can’t measure the risks of a Brexit.
“The company’s view is that we would prefer to avoid the uncertainty. All we’re saying is that there’s no turning back if we get into the Brexit situation, and for us there’s no insurance policy against Brexit.”
There was a loud applause from the shareholders in the audience.
Other stories by Jon Danzig:
- The problem with Brexit
- The EU accounts ARE signed off
- What does Brexit look like? Nobody knows
- List of the latest articles by Jon Danzig
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— Jon Danzig (@Jon_Danzig) May 5, 2016