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Microsoft comes out in support of remaining in the EU in a letter to its 5,000 UK employees

Microsoft is, this afternoon, sending out an internal email setting out its hope that Britain will vote to remain in the European Union.

In an email to its 5,000 British staff and its "partner network" of 25,000 British businesses Microsoft opines that leaving the EU risks making Britain a less attractive place to invest in.

Microsoft's UK CEO, Michel Van der Bel, writes that the decision on June 23rd is "for individual voters to make" but goes on to state that Microsoft's view "is that the UK should remain in the EU."

Microsoft's UK CEO, Michel Van der Bel, writes that the decision on June 23rd is "for individual voters to make" but goes on to state that Microsoft's view "is that the UK should remain in the EU." You can read the email in full below.

Microsoft is not the force it once was but remains a highly successful and wealthy company and its opinion matters quite a lot.

The company has been investing in Britain since 1982 and currently employs people working in support, marketing, gaming, cyber-security and computer science research across sites in Reading, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester and London.

These are precisely their highly-skilled jobs the government is anxious to create more of.

ITV News has obtained a copy of the letter:

Credit: ITV News

Microsoft is not warning that it will abandon its British operations in the event of Brexit, indeed the letter makes clear that in the short term there would not be any impact on either jobs or investment but that over the longer term both are at stake. The warning is nuanced but clear.

"As it stands, Microsoft can attract the best talent from right across Europe worth out any visa restrictions at all, and at the same time we can develop products and services here and we can sell them anywhere across Europe without restriction and if we were to leave the EU both of those things are at risk," Hugh Milward, Senior Director for Legal and Corporate Affairs, at Microsoft, told ITV News.

The timing is delicious.

The email goes out on a day when the Leave campaign is accusing the government and the Confederation of British Industry of an orchestrated attempt to cattle-prod businesses into putting pressure on employees to vote to remain.

Microsoft insists it was not prompted to intervene by either the government of the CBI, instead it decided to respond to repeated enquiries from both staff and customers.

Microsoft is the first of US tech giants to set out its position on the referendum.

Until now the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon have decided to remain neutral.