UK business leaders warn Brexit would be ‘damaging’

More than 200 entrepreneurs have thrown their weight behind the campaign for Britain to stay in the EU, warning that the economic shock of Brexit would be “hugely damaging” to the prospects of start-up businesses.
UK business leaders warn Brexit would be ‘damaging’

Among signatories to an open letter from ‘Entrepreneurs for In’ are founders of companies that have rapidly become household names in the online economy, like Skype, Ebookers, Zoopla and Net a Porter, as well as some of the names behind brands including Innocent Drinks, Jack Wills, Yo! Sushi, and Domino’s Pizza.

And the Remain camp received a further boost as eight former US treasury secretaries said in a joint letter to The Times that “a strong Britain inside the European Union” was “the best hope in our view for securing Britain’s future, creating a more prosperous Europe and protecting a healthy and resilient global economy”.

But a former governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King said campaigners on both sides of the debate were exaggerating the potential impact of leaving or staying, and cautioned against expectations of a “dramatic difference” from either result in the June 23 referendum.

“I think it’s very important that people should not exaggerate the impact, either of staying in or of leaving,” he told the Bloomberg news agency, in comments after George Osborne released a Treasury analysis suggesting Brexit could shrink the economy by 6%.

“I do worry that people on both sides treating this as a public relations campaign rather than as a debate on the future of our country are inclined to exaggerate because they feel they are selling a position. “

Larry Summers, who served as treasury secretary in Bill Clinton’s administration, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Brexit would be “the most isolationist deed in the last century” and would damage Britain’s economic future and standing in the world, as well as reducing the effectiveness of the transatlantic special relationship.

David Cameron hailed the treasury secretaries’ intervention — ahead of the arrival of US president Barack Obama for a UK visit in which he is expected to caution against Brexit — as “important”.

But prominent Leave campaigner and former defence secretary Liam Fox said some of the US signatories “go back a long way”, and challenged their assessment that Brexit would diminish the UK’s role in the world.

The Entrepreneurs for In letter, penned by Innocent Drinks founder Richard Reed, the vice-chairman of Britain Stronger in Europe, said that start-up companies benefited from “being able to do business within Europe’s single market of 500m consumers, with one set of regulations across 28 countries, and the ability to recruit the brightest people here and across Europe”.

Reforms secured by Mr Cameron in his renegotiation of UK membership would “create even greater business opportunities for our firms”, said the group.

And they warned: “The economic shock of a vote to leave the EU would... be hugely damaging to our businesses. Leaving could lead to lost investment, missed opportunities and lost jobs.”

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