It was first reported over the weekend that up to half of Britain's biggest businesses will voice their support for Prime Minister David Cameron's campaign to keep the UK in the European Union by putting their names to an open letter backing the reforms Cameron secured in Brussels last week.
Now it looks like the full text of that letter has been leaked ahead of its planned publication date.
Guido Fawkes is running a draft letter sent to blue-chip bosses by Downing Street business adviser Chris Hopkins yesterday. It is expected to appear in tomorrow’s Times, with signatories including senior figures from Shell, BAE Systems, BT and Rio Tinto.
From: Chris Hopkins
Sent: 21 February 2016
We run businesses representing every sector and region of the United Kingdom. Together we employ hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
Following the Prime Minister’s renegotiation, we believe that Britain is better off staying in a reformed European Union. He has secured a commitment from the EU to reduce the burden of regulation, deepen the single market and to sign off crucial international trade deals.
Businesses like ours need unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs. We believe that leaving the EU would deter investment and threaten jobs. It would put the economy at risk.
We believe Britain will be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member of the European Union.
Give me a call if you have any issues.
Cameron is set to make his case for the UK remaining in the EU when he addresses MPs in the House of Commons at 3:30pm today. He is expected to face difficult questions from members of his own party, with eurosceptic groups saying that nearly one-half of Conservative MPs will go against the government and back Brexit.
Six Cabinet ministers, including justice secretary Michael Gove, said they would campaign for the UK to leave the EU on Saturday, while mayor of London Boris Johnson dealt Cameron another blow last night when he confirmed that he would also back Brexit.
Tory mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith has also thrown his weight behind the "Leave" campaign.
“We would be better off out of the EU, and I will be voting to leave,” Goldsmith said. “I recognise that opinion in London is at best divided on this issue, and as a mayoral candidate, it would be easier for me to quietly U-turn.
“But I didn’t get involved in politics to test every idea with pollsters, flip flop on the big issues and then carry on regardless once elected.”
Goldsmith conceded that many of Britain’s biggest businesses would disagree with his view, but added “business does not speak with one voice”, citing figures showing that most of the capital’s small and medium-sized firms say EU regulation makes it harder for them to hire.
“And a growing number of large businesses have stated that Britain would flourish, or at least not be disadvantaged by leaving the EU,” he added.