Top bosses rally behind campaign for EU reform

HUNDREDS of businesspeople today joined a major new cross-party campaign that hopes to convince the UK’s politicians of the pressing need to repatriate powers from the EU.

Business for Britain launched this morning with a declaration in City A.M. signed by 500 people – ranging from FTSE 100 chief executives to small business owners – who believe the UK’s economy will be stronger if the country renegotiates its relationship with Brussels.

Heavyweight backers include Next chief executive Lord Wolfson, Travelex founder Lloyd Dorfman, and Ocado chairman Sir Stuart Rose.

The organisation will spend this summer building up a network of grassroots supporters across the country before publishing a list of business-boosting powers that its members believe could realistically be devolved back to Britain.

Campaign co-chair John Mills, a former Labour councillor who runs a successful mail-order company, said: “This campaign is not about taking political sides or backing the right horse – it’s about doing what’s best for British business.”

David Cameron has already pledged to seek a new settlement with Europe but Business for Britain wants all major UK political parties to accept this as a consensus position.

“This is where the general public are: they don’t want to be out of the EU but they don’t want the status quo,” a spokesman said yesterday. “We welcome every businessperson at all levels – they should join the campaign and show that’s where they are as well.”

Matthew Elliott, the veteran political activist who led the successful “no” campaign in 2011’s alternative vote referendum, will run Business for Britain on a day-to-day basis.

The group is positioning itself as the successor to Business for Sterling, the late-1990s campaign group that successfully fought Tony Blair’s plans to take Britain into the euro. All its funding comes from the businesspeople who have publicly signed the pledge.

Business for Britain sits in contrast to the pro-Brussels Business for New Europe group led by City PR man Roland Rudd. Rudd claims any attempt to renegotiate powers could result in Britain being forced out of the 27-member bloc altogether.

Last week a poll by the British Chambers of Commerce found two-thirds of businesses believe repatriating some powers back from Brussels would boost the UK economy.