1,000 UK business leaders call for referendum on EU membership

Pressure mounts on David Cameron and the CBI as referendum-supporting Business for Britain campaign boasts of growing signatories.

Business for Britain (BfB), the business campaign for a fundamental change in the UK’s relationship with the EU, has announced that it has signed up over 1,000 business leaders – 18 months after its formation.

Signatories to the campaign, who collectively are responsible for millions of British jobs, all support EU renegotiation followed by an in-out referendum.

According to BfB, the support of its signatories for a referendum is in stark contrast to the position of the CBI leadership, ‘who have constantly warned against the uncertainty and political risk of an EU referendum and the negative consequences of the PM’s strategy’.

BfB also drew attention to a recent YouGov poll, which found that 66% of business leaders support an EU referendum.

And it further condemned the CBI’s commitment to remaining in the EU by highlighting yesteday’s revelations that the organisation, whose motto is ‘The Voice of Britain’, receives significant funding from the European Union.

Between 2009 and 2013 the CBI received a total of €936,272 (£800,841) from the European Union, an average of £160,162 per year.

The CBI received a regular annual grant annual grant from the EU averaging €184,025 (£157,331) per year, for ‘business and consumer surveys’.

By examining the publically available estimates on the number of CBI members, which states membership at around 1,800, BfB calculated that the average membership subscription to the CBI each year is roughly £10,787.

With an average EU contribution of £160,162 per year, this would suggest that the European Union could well be the CBI’s largest financial contributor. 

‘Judging business opinion on the EU through a CBI survey is about as accurate as judging the outcome of the next General Election by polling members of the Conservative Party,’ said Matthew Elliott, CEO of BfB.

‘The CBI vigorously campaigned to join the Euro, something that would have been an unmitigated economic disaster for this country, and now its leadership are using the same arguments it deployed then to warn against an EU referendum now.

‘They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. Independent polling shows that the overwhelming majority business leaders back an EU referendum because they know it’s the best way to secure a better EU deal for the UK.’

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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