Out campaign fields unimpressive list of businesses

by Jack Schickler | 16.05.2016

“More than 300 business leaders back a Brexit”, says the Telegraph today, referring to an accompanying letter claiming EU membership undermines UK competitiveness. John Longworth, former Director of the British Chambers of Commerce, and one of the signatories, was on the radio this morning to promote it.

The list of names is not impressive. It includes many ex-business chiefs who are now opposed to the interests of the organisations they used to lead. Overall, the signatories do not represent the community of either small or large businesses – 80% of CBI members are in favour of the UK’s EU membership.

While 36 FTSE 100 bosses have supported remaining in the EU, zero signed today’s letter. For most of the well-known businesses listed, in most cases, the signatories are no longer connected to the organisations concerned. Steve Dowdle, cited widely in media reports of the letter, left Sony Europe in 2010, and now runs his own property development company.

The views expressed are often in stark contrast with the organisations of which they are or were a member. Longworth himself was forced to quit the British Chambers of Commerce for defending a pro-Brexit position which 54% of its members now oppose – and just 37% support. While Michael Geohegan, another signatory, once ran HSBC, those currently in charge of the bank have said that “having access to the EU’s single market has …  enhanced the status of London as a hub”, and that they would move 1000 jobs to Paris in the event of Brexit.

In contrast to former British Airports Authority boss Nigel Vinson, the current bosses of Heathrow and Gatwick both signed a letter supporting remaining in the EU. Mark Wheatley, cited as a “Common Councilman” on the City of London, is one of 100 with that title on the local authority for the financial district, which overall supports remaining in the EU. David Sismey, listed as “Managing Director, Goldmans Sachs” [sic], is one of over 2000 with that rank from a bank, actually called Goldman Sachs, which is also in favour of the UK’s EU membership.

Boris Johnson this week takes aim at pro-EU “City fat cats” and big businessmen, in particular the “the super-rich” who use EU regulation “to their advantage”. Johnson claims Brexiteers are on the side of the “the entrepreneurs, the grafters, the workers, the innovators, the burgeoning and dynamic businesses of Britain”.

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    InFacts counts dozens of signatories to the pro-Brexit letter linked to the wealth, asset or fund management industry. Supporting the little guy, this ain’t. Meanwhile, of members of the UK’s Federation of Small Businesses, 47% support remaining in the EU, more than the 41% who support leaving. Tech startup lobbying group Coadec found 81% of its founders, investors and workers favoured staying in the EU.

    On balance, businesses of every size back Britain’s EU membership. To suggest otherwise is a distortion of the truth.

    Edited by Hugo Dixon

    3 Responses to “Out campaign fields unimpressive list of businesses”

    • Have your comments been relaid back to the Daily Telegraph? How can this distortion of the truth by the Telegraph be corrected? Should not a letter be sent to the Telegraph correcting the information they publish ?

    • As from the words few days ago of Heargraves (founder of Heargraves – Lansdown, but having stepped down some years back): uncertianty caused by brexit is good, fantastic for opportunities! This sums up the fact that all these business signatories (in personal respect, not in that of their businesses or former businesses) are very likely having huge stakes at play in the market in favor of brexit. In brief I suspect (but certain) that these people have placed their betting money (hedge funds) in favor of brexit. therefore for them brexit will be nothing else than a big individual economic gain (to be extended while playing on the months of uncertainty of stock markets going deeply up and down as they did in 2009 leaving several people incredibly richer while others and many ordinary people virually bankrupt).

    • How many of the CBI business leaders who wish to remain in the EU don’t have private medical care and are totally reliant on their local NHS hospital? How many can’t afford their children to attend preparatory schools and are forced to send them to the local primary school, flooded with Eastern European kids who don’t speak English? How many require social housing, which migrants seem to be claiming? How many of these business leaders have seen their salary stagnate since 2004, when EU migrants truly flooded this country? How many have to wait 3 weeks to see their GP because the local surgery has been flooded with migrants local in the area?

      Well, how many? None did I hear you say? Exactly.