Tony Blair delivered a strong attack on David Cameron's EU referendum promise this morning at his old Sedgefield constituency.
The former Labour leader and three-time General Election winner warned voters that the possibility of Brexit would leave "unpredictability hanging over the British economy".
Whether Blair's intervention will serve to sway voters in favour of the EU is an open question. But a new survey of small business business owners should add some cheer to the pro-European camp and add strength to Blair's case.
According to research conducted by Vistage, 61 per cent of chief executives, managing directors and owners of small businesses would vote to stay in the EU and only six per cent would vote for Brexit.
Close to 40 per cent of those surveyed said leaving the EU would hurt their business, and 58 per cent expected Brexit to slow the UK's growth rate. The Eurosceptic case that outside the EU businesses would be unshackled from Brussels red tape and better placed to tap into new markets found little sympathy among the respondents.
Just two per cent of the business chiefs expected their company to be better off post-Brexit and only one in ten thought the UK's growth rate would increase.
“Our research shows that Britain’s Mittelstand business owners are most definitely not in favour of the UK leaving the EU," said Vistage chief executive Steve Gilroy. Despite a slight dip in recent weeks, Ukip is still polling in double digits and has put an EU referendum at the core of any possible deal in a hung parliament.
“Both for the General Election and any subsequent referendum, the research shows scant support for the core policy of UKIP – Nigel Farage certainly has not made a persuasive case for leaving the EU to Britain’s SME businesses," said Gilroy.
If David Cameron wins the General Election, he will renegotiate the terms of Britain's EU membership and put the result to a vote. Ed Miliband has ruled out any EU referendum if becomes Prime Minister. Tony Blair praised the Labour leader for showing "real leadership" on Europe and not pandering to the eurosceptic press.