The telecoms industry claimed business as usual and, in most corners, some regret following the UK’s referendum decision to leave the European Union.
With little sense of picking sides, in light of their own commercial positions, consumer-led operator businesses chose their words carefully, in managed press statements.
“The political and economic consequences of the UK's withdrawal from the EU are for others to consider now that the UK electorate has reached its decision,” said Vodafone.
“In terms of the implications for Vodafone, each of our country businesses operates as a standalone entity able to adapt to a wide range of local conditions. As we said before the referendum, we remain committed to supporting our UK customers regardless of the outcome, now and in the future.”
Orange admitted some emotion, and regretted the UK’s polling. “We are saddened about the UK decision to leave the European Union, even if we fully respect the democratic choice of British citizens,” it said.
“Orange strongly believes in the benefits of the EU, in particular to trigger a real Digital Single Market for the Europeans. At the same time, we call upon a more pragmatic approach to defend EU businesses, jobs and customers in a worldwide competition reinforced by the digital revolution.”
Orange has mobile operations in eight European countries, of which seven are part of the EU (France, Poland, Spain, Belgium, Romania, Slovakia, Luxembourg).
Since the sale of EE, its joint operation with Deutsche Telekom, to BT at the end of January, Orange is no longer present on the British market as a B2C operator. However, it retains several Group offices in the UK, employing around 900 people across innovation, marketing, technology, wholesale, brand, communications and B2B departments.
“We plan to maintain those offices,” it said. “Regarding the Group’s financial exposition and balance sheet, the current situation has no direct impact on Orange. The Group is covered against movements in the sterling and dollar exchange rates.”
At O2, which is owned by Spanish telco Telefónica, a spokesperson said: "We believe that large businesses like ours would have been stronger remaining in the EU. Whatever happens next we will continue to fiercely compete in our market, innovate and deliver for our customers.”
The vendor community struck the same tone. An Ericsson spokesperson said: “Our commitment and priority has always been in supporting our customers and business in the UK whatever the outcome of the referendum. With Sweden being part of the EU we do however regret that the UK will leave."
A Nokia spokesperson added: “As one of many European companies with operations in the UK, we would have preferred a different outcome. But the citizens of the UK have spoken, and we now need to work together to make the best out of the new situation. Nokia will continue to deliver on its business and obligations in the UK."
Huawei, with its European headquarters in Dusseldorf, has no plans to make any changes to its business following the referendum. A spokesperson maintained it is business as usual for the Chinese firm in the UK. “Huawei remains committed to providing value to our customers, partners and local communities in the UK and Europe.”
Meanwhile, an IBM spokesperson said: “Although the context in which we work is ever changing, client service remains our essential purpose. We will continue to support our colleagues and our clients as the UK works to shape a prosperous future.
"And we will work closely with the government to ensure the UK remains a successful open, competitive and innovative economy, as well as encourage leaders throughout Europe to preserve cross-border data flows that drive growth and innovation, and underpins the worldwide digital economy.”