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With a leave/remain European Union  referendum called for June 23 the chairman of Standard Life has waded into the debate over Britain’s membership of the European Union claiming a Brexit would be “potentially damaging” to the UK economy.

Sir Gerry Grimstone said access to the single market was in the “best interests” of its clients and customers, and feared Standard Life would suffer if Britain decided to leave the EU.

The investment, pensions and insurance giant had previously threatened to quit Scotland and move its headquarters south of the border if the Scottish people voted for independence.

Standard Life issued its Brexit warning as it shrugged off the recent market turmoil to post better-than-expected profits. The company saw full-year group pre-tax profits rise more than 9% to £665 million.

The company also saw assets under administration grow 4% to £307.4 billion but said it was bracing itself, as it expected the “difficult conditions” in global financial markets” to “persist for some time”.

Heavyweight financial stocks have faced tough trading in recent sessions after traders sparked a rout on banking stocks amid fears some lenders were not holding enough capital to withstand a slowdown in global growth.

Chief executive Keith Skeoch said it had made “considerable progress” despite the turbulence in the markets and changing regulations. He added: “Investments are at the heart of what we do and we now manage £253 billion of assets across the globe driven by strong investment performance.”

The company said it had also added more than 250,000 new auto-enrolment customers, which had helped deliver a 9% boost to regular contributions into workplace pensions to £2.9 billion. It said it was well capitalised under the Solvency II scheme – new Europe-wide capital rules to make insurance companies safer – with a surplus of £2.1 billion.

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