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Thorny issue for corporate communications: declare on EU membership or not?

by on 20 May, 2015

Corporate communications teams this week face a thorny issue: do they commit their corporation to continued membership of the EU or not? Should they try to stand above the debate? Or should they, like the Ford Motor Company, commit early?

To be in or to be out, and whether to make an announcement or not, that is the question.

To be in or to be out, and whether to make an announcement or not, that is the question.

A corporation faces the accusation that, if it delays its announcement of its views until closer to the coming referendum, that it is fiddling with democracy. This happened with late announcements in favour of the UK by companies in Scotland.

But if it declares its views now, will it damage its business?

Ford knows its mind

Ford has committed early and clearly: stay in. As early as 2014 it said this.

But JCB, the equipment company, says it does not matter. The UK should not fear leaving the EU, said Lord Bamford this week.

JCB is willing to dance with an exit of the UK from the UK: pic by Dave Catchpole

JCB is willing to dance with an exit of the UK from the EU: pic by Dave Catchpole

CBI and BCC say stay in, but want reform

The Confederation of British Industry and the British Chambers of Commerce are both for staying in they said this week; as long as there is reform. I presume that their leaders consulted widely before making these statements.

The arguments for making an early announcement on the issue are:

  • Make your position clear and influence the debate;
  • Make it now so that you may not be seen to be panicking if the polls show it may be an out decision;
  • Keep your global HQ happy because it is probably the view there; and
  • Raise the profile of the company in Europe.

The arguments for not making an early announcement or any announcement at all are:

  • Keep out of politics;
  • There were nearly 4 million UKIP voters in the general election and you want their custom;
  • We do not want to be seen as trying to influence our employees;
  • The CBI or the BCC says it for us; and
  • We don’t really know what the outcome will be and we don’t want to be on the wrong side of it.

Should corporation or should they not make it clear what the corporate view is? Your comments, please.

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