Bosses clash on EU – but speech is off

TULLETT PREBON boss Terry Smith has thrown his weight behind the City campaign for an EU referendum – but David Cameron has been forced to cancel today’s long-awaited speech on Britain’s future in Europe due to the hostage crisis in Algeria.

Smith, chief executive of the FTSE 250 broker, told City A.M. that he supports yesterday’s public letter from Eurosceptic business leaders who want a vote on whether the UK should stay in the 27-member bloc.

“Ken Clarke and others say if Britain leaves the EU it will have a reduced role in the political world. Platitudinous guff,” Smith said. “I am a supporter of a full in/out referendum and the UK leaving the EU.”

But the pro-referendum lobby faces opposition from industry groups as business leaders take sides. Sir Roger Carr, chair of both the CBI and British Gas owner Centrica, last night claimed leaving the EU may lead to a “long-term economic future that ultimately few may envy”.

The PM was due in Amsterdam this morning to deliver a speech calling for the repatriation of some powers from the EU, but the event was called off after reports of further casualties in the Algerian hostage crisis.

“Due to events in Algeria, Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech in the Netherlands tomorrow has been postponed,” his office said.

Algerian sources last night said 25 hostages escaped and six died, including two Britons, in a battle with militants demanding a halt to French military operations against al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters in neighbouring Mali. Britain and Norway, whose oil firms BP and Statoil run the plant with Algeria’s state oil company, said they had been told that a military operation was under way.