26 March 2016
- From the section EU Referendum
- Image copyright Getty Images
The Vote Leave campaign group has published a list of 250 business leaders who it says support Britain leaving the EU.
The list includes former HSBC chief executive Michael Geoghegan, the founder of Phones 4u John Caudwell and the hotelier Sir Rocco Forte.
But Britain Stronger in Europe said Vote Leave could not find a business to officially back it, as those listed supported it in a “personal capacity”.
A referendum on whether the UK should stay in the EU will be held on 23 June.
Last month, bosses of 36 of the largest listed companies in Britain signed a letter urging voters to remain in the EU.
Vote Leave also announced that its business council would be chaired by John Longworth, who resigned his role as director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) earlier this month.
The council, made up of business leaders, will talk to businesses around the country to make their argument for an EU exit.
It will make the case that EU membership is holding back British business and will initially be made up of members from the board of campaign group Business for Britain.
By Joe Lynam, BBC business correspondent
The pro-Brexit camp has striven to counter the impression that most big companies prefer to remain in the EU. A third of FTSE 100 bosses publicly supported staying in last month.
This business council, under the auspices of Vote Leave, tries to address that by bringing together entrepreneurs and former company leaders who all want Britain to quit the EU.
There are some colourful names on the list and a few well-known bosses including the former HSBC boss Michael Geoghegan, Tim Martin from JD Wetherspoon and Phones 4u founder John Caudwell.
Many, like Sir Stuart Wheeler and co-founder of Carphone Warehouse David Ross, have ties to UKIP and the Conservatives.
But there are no current FTSE 100 chief executives or chairmen and only 13 out of the 250 signatories are women – including Sir Rocco Forte’s sister Olga and his niece Alex Polizzi.
Mr Longworth’s resignation followed his suspension for saying the UK’s long-term prospects could be “brighter” outside the EU when the BCC had an official position of neutrality on the referendum.
Mr Longworth said: “If we Vote Leave, liberated from the shackles of EU membership, jobs will be safer, Britain will be able to spend our money on our priorities and we can look forward to faster growth and greater prosperity in the future.”
Matthew Elliott, Vote Leave’s chief executive, said it had a “growing list of business supporters”.
Mr Elliott said: “Vote Leave will make that case, that whilst the EU might be good for big multinationals, for smaller businesses it acts as a job destruction regulatory machine.
“Brussels hinders smaller businesses, particularly those firms who can’t afford to lobby Brussels to curry favour.
“Jobs, wages and our economy will thrive when we take back control and Vote Leave.”
But Business Secretary Sajid Javid, who is supporting the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, said businesses could see “we are stronger, safer and better-off in a reformed EU”.
“Survey after survey shows that small businesses – the backbone of our economy – want to stay inside the EU rather than take a leap in the dark,” he said.
Sir Michael Rake, chairman of BT and a fellow supporter of the In campaign, said the majority of businesses were in favour of staying in the EU.
And he said the Leave campaign were “not coming forward” with the recommendations of how the UK could operate if it we were to leave the union.
“Many of the options that are talked about – Norway, Switzerland, Canada – are not realistic,” he said.
They “would require us to have the same commitments, the same free movement of labour, the same migration policies and pay into the budget as we currently do – without any influence.”
Some of the business leaders who have signed up as backers of the Vote Leave campaign:
Emma Pullen, MD of the British Hovercraft Company
John Hoerner, former chief executive officer, Tesco Clothing UK and Central Europe
Luke Johnson, chairman of Patisserie Valerie
Jon Moulton, founder of Better Capital LLP
Rupert Hambro, director of Theo Fennell Plc
Pasha Khandaker, president of the Bangladesh Caterers Association
Damon de Laszlo, chairman of Harwin Plc
John Sclater, former president of Equitable Life
British business drowns under Brussels barrage of 1,139 laws and red tape despite cuts vow
BRUSSELS has showered British business with more than 1,000 new bits of red tape taking more than six million words to spell out in the last year alone despite vowing to cut back, research shows today.
00:01, Fri, Oct 24, 2014
The EU has so far implemented only a handful of the deregulation proposals made a year ago by a UK taskforce while presiding over a “dramatic increase” in rules, the report from pro-EU reform group Business for Britain says.
It says new EU membership rules David Cameron will negotiate as he promises if re-elected next May must include ways to stem the tide of regulation and give nation states and MPs more powers to block and scrutinise new rules.
Business for Britain chief executive Matthew Elliott said: “The Government’s Business Taskforce made some extremely sensible and practical suggestions about how the EU can reduce the regulatory burden on business.
“The EU has said it wants to cut red tape so it’s about time it delivered on its promises rather than kicking them into the Brussels long grass.
“The EU needs to embrace reform, cut out the endless bureaucracy and end its addiction to answering every perceived problem with a burdensome set of regulations that hamper business and the Continent’s competitiveness.”
Combing through the EUs Official Journal of binding measures for those which affected British business researchers found Europe has introduced 1,139 new business regulations and directives since October last year when the taskforce reported.
The EU has said it wants to cut red tape so it’s about time it delivered on its promises rather than kicking them into the Brussels long grass
Totalling 6.3million words the new rules would take the average reader 44 days to read, they estimated.
Since Mr Cameron became Prime Minister in May 2010, more than 4,700 EU business regulations have been brought in, numbering nearly 20million words and constituting 138 days’ reading.
Separate analysis showed more than 32,800 EU legal documents are in force today.
The UK’s Business Taskforce made 30 specific proposals, backed by the Government, to ease the burden of European laws on British firms – but the EU had implemented only six so far.
Thirteen had some support but seven had made no progress and the other four looked set to be rejected.
The report also found that only 2.7 per cent of nearly 28,000 EU documents deposited in Parliament since 1974 had been debated by the House of Commons – less than a quarter of those which MPs deemed important, although the percentage scrutinised had risen to 3.3 per cent in 2012-13.
“A significant number of the new rules have a narrow focus which only affects a limited number of firms.
“Yet almost all businesses are subject to at least some the new rules that come from the EU, which makes this research a useful indicator of the amount of ‘red tape’ that has been introduced by the EU as a whole in the last year.”
The researchers admitted they had not sought to distinguish “necessary” regulations from those they deemed “spurious” – like how to make food smoke-flavoured; labelling olive oil containers to tell consumers to keep them away from light or heat; and defining when gin can be called “dry”.
But they concluded: “Clearly, fundamental reforms are needed to limit the amount of EU red tape that makes it onto the British statute books. Any future renegotiation needs to make sure that British Parliamentarians have a much greater say over new EU laws.
“The Government should give serious thought to finding new ways for member states to block new, harmful EU laws and should engage with the House of Commons Scrutiny Committee to consider ways of improving Parliament’s scrutiny of EU documents
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