By Rebecca Burn-Callander Wednesday, 09 January 2013

Branson and his merry band of business leaders put pro-EU wind up the PM

A consortium of business leaders has warned David Cameron that he risks destabilising the economy and inadvertently taking Britain out of the EU if he tries to seek a 'wholesale renegotiation of our EU membership'.

Prime Minister David Cameron (or, more likely, a gaggle of speech writers) is currently labouring over a speech that he is to deliver in the Netherlands later this month, outlining his demands for the renegotiation of Britain’s membership terms with the EU. Rather a lot rests on this speech as the final outcome of these negotiations will be put to a referendum in the next Parliament.

The whole business has left many entrepreneurs and business leaders feeling a little apprehensive. As a result, Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson, Chris Gibson-Smith, chairman of the London Stock Exchange, the CBI's Sir Roger Carr and Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, among others, have clubbed together to compose a letter to the PM, warning over the possible ramifications of these EU membership tweaks.

While it is right that Cameron should call for reforms (the EU budget and the working time directive both need especial attention, they argue), the worry is that the political wrangling over Cameron's more 'radical' reforms could leave the British public disillusioned and prompt them to vote to leave the EU in a referendum, with damaging consequences for business.

'To call for such a move in these circumstances would be to put our membership of the EU at risk and create damaging uncertainty for British business, which are the last things the prime minister would want to do,' the letter says.

Oh dear. This isn't much of a vote of confidence in the PM's power of rhetoric, or his clout amongst the EU chiefs. And Cameron now finds himself in a pretty awkward position. These negotiations are only taking place in response to growing euroscepticism among the British public - although Cameron insists he'd rather stay in the EU.

You can't please them all, Dave...


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