Business leaders: EU exit risks UK economy

Article by Staff Writer

THE UK must remain a member of the EU, or the economy will be put at risk, according to 197 UK business leaders, who have written an open letter to The Times.

Signatories include 17 major employers of chemical engineers, covering the full breadth of the discipline,  such as AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot, BASF managing director Richard Carter, BP CEO Bob Dudley, Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes, Shell CEO Ben Van Beurden, GSK CEO Sir Andrew Witty, Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Rio Tinto chairman Jan du Plessis, and Atkins CEO Uwe Kruger. Leaders at BHP Billiton, BAE Systems, Centrica, Greene King, National Grid, Petrofac, SABMiller and Walgreens Boots Alliance also signed the letter.

On 20 February, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he had agreed a number of changes to the UK’s EU membership with other EU leaders after a summit in Brussels, and as a result, would hold a referendum on 23 June to allow the public to decide whether the UK should remain in the EU or leave. Unusually, members of parliament will be allowed to campaign freely according to their own views, rather than following the party whip. Politicians and public figures alike have already begun to make their views known.

In their letter to The Times, the business leaders, including 36 from FTSE 100 companies, say that Cameron’s new deal, which includes protecting the pound and UK trading rights, and safeguarding the City of London, means that Britain is better off staying in the UK. Unrestricted access to the EU is vital if the UK economy is to continue to grow.

“We believe that leaving the EU would deter investment, threaten jobs and put the economy at risk. Britain will be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member of the EU,” the letter concludes.

The pound had its biggest fall on Monday, following resumption of trading after the announcement of the referendum, though it later recovered. Analysts have pointed out that some of the UK’s biggest employers, such as supermarket chains Tesco and Sainsbury’s, have not signed the letter, but both said they would not be taking a position on the matter.

Earlier in February, trade credit insurance firm Euler Hermes warned that the UK chemical sector could lose up to £7bn/y (US$10.1bn/y) in exports if the UK votes to leave the EU, a 14% decline compared to present levels.

IChemE members with a view on the matter can fill in an online survey to express their views.

Article by Staff Writer

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