Lloyd’s of London’s Chairman John Nelson and Standard Chartered Plc (STAN) Chief Executive Officer Peter Sands said Britain should hold a referendum on its membership in the European Union and opt to stay.
“A referendum creates some uncertainty, but we have to be realistic,” Nelson, who heads the world’s oldest insurance market, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television at the World Economic Forum in Davos today. “We live in a democratic world. Underlying all this is the importance of the single market to the U.K. economy.”
Prime Minister David Cameron today pledged an in-out referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU, allowing U.K. voters to decide on breaking up the 27-nation bloc.
Cameron, describing British backing for the status quo in Europe as “wafer thin,” said he would put the question to a popular vote by the end of 2017, if re-elected in two years and once he has negotiated a return of some powers to the U.K. He said that he wants the U.K. to remain in the EU.
“The U.K. needs to remain very much part of the EU, but I can completely understand why Prime Minister Cameron thought it necessary to offer the people a referendum,” Sands said in a separate interview with Bloomberg Television’s Francine Lacqua. “Europe is changing and as the biggest country in Europe outside the euro zone its relationship is going to change.”
The EU has done “not enough talking to the people about how it should evolve,” making the vote “the right call,” said Sands, whose London-based bank earns most of its profit from Asia.
Cameron is responding to pressure from lawmakers in his Conservative Party for looser ties with the EU or an outright departure from the union. European leaders have rejected his calls to renegotiate membership terms. Cameron’s Liberal Democrat coalition partners and the opposition Labour Party also reject the plans and the U.S. has expressed concern about the implications of a U.K. outside the EU.
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