LONDON May 16 Vodafone Chief Executive
Vittorio Colao said he was optimistic Britain would secure a
Brexit deal that works for both sides because there was so much
at stake for over 500 million European citizens.
Colao, the Italian boss of the world's second biggest mobile
company, said he expected politicians in Britain and the
European Union to ultimately adopt a pragmatic approach to
Brexit despite recent signs of brinkmanship.
As the head of a company that has to deal with Brussels and
national regulators across Europe, Colao has first hand
knowledge of the inner workings of the bloc during his nine
years in charge of the company.
"Once you go through the usual pre-negotiation tactics that
everybody uses, I think pragmatism should prevail," Colao, 55,
told Reuters on Tuesday after a press conference for the
company's full-year results.
"I disagree with people who say that politicians are
irrational, politicians are among the most rational people that
I meet because they use the rationality of political support, so
we need to be sure there is a good environment for providing
political support for politicians who want to find agreement."
The vote to leave the EU last June has created an
unprecedented level of uncertainty for British-based companies
that operate in Europe, it's biggest trading partner.
Since Prime Minister Theresa May triggered the start of the
divorce process, politicians in both Britain and Europe have
warned that Brexit talks could end in failure.
A disorderly Brexit with no deal would sow chaos through the
economies of Britain and the EU by shattering trading
relationships, spooking financial markets and tarnishing
London's reputation as a global financial centre.
But Colao, who supported the campaign to keep Britain in the
European Union, said he was more optimistic than many of his
peers that a deal could be reached without too much disruption.
He said Vodafone could be affected by an economic slowdown
in Britain or a divergence between the way its home market and
Europe is regulated.
But unlike some industries like the financial services
sector it does not need to change the way it operates because it
is already organised on a country by country basis.
"So the question is what is the likelihood that the Brexit
process actually determines a slowdown in the economy or even
worse consequences, now here I happen to be a little bit more
optimistic than most people because I believe that it is
nobody's interest to generate that," he said.
"The leadership of Europe and the leadership of the large
European countries will at some point find a common platform
with Britain," Colao said.
"And maybe businesses like us, who are based in Britain but
are very European, and symmetric ones, can also help in finding
good solutions to what in the end is a negotiation."
(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)