Business split over Britain’s future in the EU

THE LEADER of the British Chambers of Commerce yesterday warned City A.M. that multinational companies may not have Britain’s national interest at heart when discussing the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

“For business leaders involved in multinationals the British interest may be secondary, as Britain is a gateway for accessing the common market,” John Longworth said.

But he said warring City factions must overcome their differences and back David Cameron to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU.

“The people arguing for the status quo – the Europhiles – are playing into the hands of the Europhobes,” Longworth said. “The status quo is a myth and the general direction of the EU is ever closer union without limit. Even if we were entirely satisfied with what we have at the moment, we need to negotiate a new relationship.”

David Cameron will finally deliver his keynote speech on Europe this week, after it was delayed due to the Algerian hostage crisis. Extracts leaked in advance of the original date show the Prime Minister will warn that continuing along the current path will result in “more of the same – less competitiveness, less growth, fewer jobs”.

Business leaders are split on the issue, with WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell declaring “we’re not going to be able to do anything if we’re just sat there like Norway and Switzerland”. BMW sales chief Ian Robertson agreed, saying Britain needed to remain a “strong and active member of the EU”, while Ford’s Europe chief executive Stephen Odell said: “All countries should have their sovereignty, but don’t discuss leaving a trading partner where 50 per cent of your exports go. That would be devastating for the UK economy.”

Entrepreneur Luke Johnson said the pro-Europe business campaign is led by a “small group of multinationals and the political elite who don’t believe in democracy”.