OW chancellor Ed Balls last night described the prospect of Britain leaving the EU as the greatest threat to London – echoing warnings from some business leaders.
“The whole of Britain benefits from London’s growth and dynamism,” Balls told London First, a business group in the capital.
“We should have no truck with the argument that if the rest of the country is to get more jobs and investment then London needs to be less successful – it’s not a zero-sum game.”
Earlier in the day, Ford’s European chief Jim Farley became the latest senior business figure to call on the UK to remain part of the EU. Farley said he “really hopes” Britain remains a part of the union, describing it as “critical” for business.
The prospect of a so-called Brexit has been raised by Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge of a referendum on the question if the Conservatives are elected back to power in May.
Not all business figures are enthusiastic supporters of remaining in the EU. A group named Business for Britain endorses a stronger line on Brussels, with signatories such as Newton Investment Management boss Helena Morrissey and Better Capital boss Jon Moulton calling for a tough renegotiation of terms with the EU.
Nonetheless, others have warned of possibly negative consequences of a Brexit. Last month, Iain Conn, the new boss of British utility titan Centrica, said in an interview: “In my view Britain is better off inside Europe. Britain needs to be as competitive as possible.”
Conn’s words were an echo of those of a slew of business leaders who have come out in favour of the “in” cause. Among them have been Ben van Beurden, chief executive of oil titan Shell; Ivan Menezes, then boss of the world’s largest spirits maker, Diageo; Jill McDonald, north west division president of McDonald’s; and, perhaps most resoundingly, Britain’s most high-profile entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson.