What does a Brexit look like for an international company working in the UK?
Before the vote, New Power asked Silvia Stefini, gas product line leader, Europe, for GE’s Power Services business, if it would make life more difficult for her company, which has a large UK presence but operates across the EU and the world.
“It would make things more difficult,” she said. “It’s the uncertainty that everybody is scared about.
“We live in a world where co-operation is critical, so thinking about Europe as one set of co-ordinated countries helps face challenges. No-one can really solve these problems by themselves. [The EU] may not be perfect, it has problems, but it is a platform to co-operate. The UK is a great country and a critical market for Europe.”
She said her company would have to renegotiate all its UK contracts in the event of Brexit. For long term maintenance agreements for the plant it supplies, for example, “there are assumptions in long term agreements. Where there are external factors that shake our agreements we would renegotiate.”
Stefini told New Power the company “makes an effort to be local as much as possible,” but its Europe team operates on a pan-European basis and “The countries in the EU are clearly managed more easily”.
It is about people movement and merchandise, and “It just facilitates for our customers in moving people and assets,” she said.
For example, “When there is an unforeseen problem – technical issues, management or operational issues – we strive to minimise the time the plant is off the grid.” The way we do it is to find the best people who can jump and support quickly, we find assets wherever they are and parts. The flexibility in managing assets and people is really helpful. It’s about responsiveness.” Within the EU the company can provide faster support than accessing the company’s resources elsewhere, she says – and similarly UK experts can be called on quickly by other EU countries.
Speaking after the results of the vote, Stefini said: “Although GE supported the UK remaining in the EU, we respect the decision of the British people. We will follow developments closely. As a company that operates in over 180 countries we are used to working within a variety of business environments.”
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