Reassurance comes after an open letter stated an EU exit would ‘threaten jobs’
The biggest employer in the town, AXA, has reassured staff it is ‘unlikely’ a British exit from the European Union would have an impact on their jobs.
The statement follows a reference to the insurance giant by MP Greg Clark, who in an article written for this newspaper two weeks ago quoted the head of AXA claiming a Brexit would, ‘deter investment, threaten jobs and put the economy at risk’.
Mr Clark made the reference as part of his reasoning on why the country should remain within the European Union.
The quote he referenced was part of a joint open letter signed by nearly 200 of the UK’s largest companies which included BT, Shell and Marks & Spencer, alongside AXA. The letter attracted widespread media attention.
Mr Clark wrote: “For us here in Tunbridge Wells, I believe we have benefitted particularly from this engagement with Europe. Many of our local employers operate across Europe.
“The head of AXA – the biggest private sector employer in Tunbridge Wells – said that Britain leaving the EU would ‘deter investment, threaten jobs and put the economy at risk’.”
The Times sought clarification from the company, which employs over 2,000 people in Tunbridge Wells.
AXA acknowledged the Chief Executive of AXA UK, Paul Evans, was one of the 197 business leaders who signed the letter.
But a spokesman said while the company believed the UK ‘as a whole’ was better off inside the EU, the impact on AXA’s operations in the country would be limited.
He said: “The Group Chief Executive of AXA UK, Paul Evans, was one of one hundred and ninety seven business leaders who signed a letter published in The Times [national] newspaper which indicated that Britain would be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member of the EU.
“At a macroeconomic level the business leaders concluded that leaving the EU would deter investment and put the economy at risk.
“While our own UK businesses, and the people we employ, are unlikely to be impacted if the UK voters elect to leave the EU, AXA’s position is clear that the UK as a whole would be best served by remaining in the EU.”
He added the company ‘already’ operates across a ‘number of countries and currencies’, and the UK market ‘remains attractive to the shareholder’.
Collin Bullen, a spokesman for the Grassroots Out campaign in Kent, said the apparent contradiction between the wording of the signed letter and AXA’s statement to the Times ‘rather undermines their case.’
However, he also suggested that the company may have been ‘pressurised’ into signing.
He said: “This does rather undermine their case, and it has since come out that some of those who signed the letter felt pressurised to do so.