Murphy: UK must ‘up its game’ in Europe

If Britons vote to remain in the EU today, then the UK should take the opportunity to re-energise its engagement with Europe, says Invest Europe’s new chair.

Dr. Gerry Murphy, chairman of Blackstone Europe and newly-appointed chair of industry body Invest Europe, is firmly behind a vote for Britain to remain a member of the European Union. But for Murphy, the real work should begin after the vote.

“My hope is that Britain will choose to remain in, and after that vote, re-engage in a serious way with Europe,” Murphy told Private Equity International in an interview following the news of his Invest Europe appointment.

Murphy said the UK should “up its game, frankly, in Europe, where Britain has the potential to be much more influential, much more positive within Europe in dealing with the big challenges Europe faces, including the need to stimulate growth, dealing with the external challenges from migration. Those aren’t going to go away.”

Murphy said the UK “can do rather better than it has done”, and that “the UK, when it gets its act together, is very powerful”.

“Its institutions are very strong and powerful, its civil service is very capable. A more engaged UK would give us a much better EU, in my view.”

Although political discord across Europe, of which “Brexit” is currently the most powerful symbol, is rife, Murphy told PEI that from the perspective of the private equity industry, there is more integration today than there was some years ago.

For Invest Europe’s part, the preferred outcome of the referendum is a no-brainer, Murphy says: “Invest Europe’s view absolutely is that we should and do support the free movement of capital around Europe. It’s just a good thing. And the fewer restrictions there are to that objective the better.”

However, Murphy is pragmatic; if Britons vote to leave the EU, then the continent – and the private equity industry – will have to deal with the new reality.

“I think there would be some dislocation of markets, some uncertainty, until a new equilibrium is established, and that could take a while,” Murphy said.

“One of the great advantages of private equity is through a crisis or a challenge it can hunker down and play a long game, and that’s exactly what we would do. I don’t expect ¬– at least I hope– that any post Brexit period of uncertainty will be nothing like what we went through in 2008, and our industry came through that crisis in quite good shape.”

He added: “Our message to investors should be ‘your money’s in good hands with us, we are as an industry experienced and good at dealing with crises, and we’ll get you through this one too.’”