U.K. Homebuilders Join ‘Remain’ Camp as Brexit Tensions Rise

  • Barratt Developments, Canary Wharf Group among 17 seeing risk
  • U.S. official, Nobel laureates, German magazine urge remain

Britain’s biggest property firms including Barratt Developments Plc and Canary Wharf Group Plc are the latest to take a stand on U.K. membership in the European Union less than two weeks before a vote, saying a decision to leave would hinder development projects and raise the cost to build new homes.

In an open letter released Saturday, executives from 17 U.K. companies said the “considerable uncertainty” of a vote to leave will harm investment in the country, making it harder for firms to raise funds to build. Tensions have heightened as campaigners from both sides have grown more vocal less than two weeks before Britons cast their votes June 23 on whether to remain in the EU. The campaign to leave took a 10 percentage-point lead in a poll published late Friday.

“Investment will suffer as confidence in the economy wavers,” in the event of a decision to leave the bloc, the letter said. “That is the last thing Britain’s developers and house builders need.”

Investor Anxiety

Polls showing the “Leave” campaign leading “Remain” have fueled the anxiety of investors, sending the pound to its lowest level since April. Prime Minister David Cameron has said leaving the 28-nation bloc would cause untold economic damage while opponents led by former London Mayor Boris Johnson focus on the promise of reducing immigration.

Foreign support for the U.K. remaining in the EU on Saturday came from the German news magazine Der Spiegel, which published an appeal to the British people to reject Brexit, with the words ‘Please don’t go!’ across a Union Jack as the front cover.

In the magazine, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said if the U.K. opted to leave it would not be able to enjoy the benefits of the EU’s single market and that it would “have to follow the rules of a club which it just left.”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, in an interview to be broadcast Sunday on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” said: “There’s a host of reasons why I think this is profoundly in the economic and security interests of both the U.K., Europe and the world, for the U.K. to remain in.” He said any U.S.-U.K. trade agreement would be negotiated after the U.S. wraps up current talks with the EU.

Supplies Disrupted

The house builders, in their letter, warned of disruptions to the supply chain, risking the production and import of materials like bricks, which would drive up costs, they said. First-time home buyers would be particularly affected.

“Government support has brought much-needed stability to the housing market,” said Stephen Stone, chief executive officer of Crest Nicholson Holdings Plc. “Anything which undermines it -- including Brexit -- would not be welcomed and could force us to revisit our investment decisions.”

Separately on Saturday, the London-based Times reported that Morgan Stanley has drawn up plans to relocate more than 1,000 employees from London to continental Europe if the country votes to leave.

The Telegraph reported that James Dyson, chairman and founder of Dyson Ltd., said the U.K. has more to gain being outside the EU. Also according to the Telegraph, a group of Nobel laureates warned that Brexit campaigners are jeopardizing Britain’s leadership position in scientific research.

The opinion survey of 2,000 people by ORB for the Independent newspaper found 55 percent in favor of a Brexit, up 4 points since a previous poll in April, with 45 percent for “Remain,” down 4 points. It’s the biggest “Leave” lead recorded by ORB in polls for the newspaper.

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