A letter in support of remaining in the European Union (EU) has been signed by 198 business leaders representing 1.2 million employees, including 36 chairmen or chief executives of FTSE 100 companies.
The signatories – including bosses at BT, Marks & Spencer, Vodafone and Kingfisher – have warned against a vote in favour of ‘Brexit’ at the June referendum. The letter states that: ‘Business needs unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs.
‘We believe that leaving the EU would deter investment and threaten jobs. It would put the economy at risk.’
However, campaigners for Britain to leave the EU have pointed out that two-thirds of FTSE 100 firms did not back the letter, including Barclays, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and many of the members of Prime Minister David Cameron’s own Business Advisory Group (BAG) such as Alison Brittain of Whitbread and Nigel Wilson, chief executive of Legal & General.
Leader of the House of Commons, Chris Grayling, who is to campaign for Brexit, said big businesses had called on the UK to adopt the Euro, and, had it done so, it would have been a ‘disaster’. He added: ‘It is also very noticeable that some of our biggest manufacturers – Toyota, Honda, Nissan – all said that it would make no difference to their plans at all if we were to leave the European Union’.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has also announced that he will be campaigning to leave the EU, urged people to ignore those ‘spreading alarm and anxiety’ about the economic risks of an EU exit, saying: ‘We have a great opportunity now to strike new deals for Britain to be the hub of new trading arrangements around the world’.
Asked about why the majority of FTSE 100 companies did not sign the letter, the Prime Minister said that companies were often reluctant to ‘make any form of political statement’, adding: ‘If the leave campaign could produce 35 business leaders of this sort of stature they’d be over the moon and I don’t think they have the prospect of doing that with FTSE 100 leaders in any way’.