World Economy

British Businesses Say EU Exit Would Hit Economy

British Businesses Say EU Exit Would Hit EconomyBritish Businesses Say EU Exit Would Hit Economy

The bosses at more than a third of Britain's biggest companies including oil giants Shell and BP and its largest telecoms group said leaving the European Union would put the economy at risk, backing Prime Minister David Cameron's call to stay in the bloc.

The business support provided a boost for Cameron in his battle to win over a divided public and confront the many euroskeptics in his own party before Britain holds a referendum on whether to stay in the EU on June 23, Reuters reported.

It came the day after the pound posted its biggest one-day loss in almost six years on concerns Britain might vote to leave the 28-member bloc. Nearly 200 companies, among them 36 FTSE 100 firms, including telecoms group BT, retailer Marks & Spencer and oil firms Shell and BP signed the letter which put forward the economic merits of EU membership.

"Business needs unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs," said the letter, published on Tuesday. "We believe that leaving the EU would deter investment, threaten jobs and put the economy at risk." The high-profile backing for Cameron follows a tough few days since he agreed new British terms with EU leaders at a summit in Brussels last week when deep divisions in his Conservative party over Europe rose to the surface. However, two-thirds of top bosses did not sign up the letter, including those from its two biggest retailers.

Tesco, Britain's biggest private employer with 310,000 staff, said the referendum was a decision for the people of Britain and that its focus remained on serving its customers, while Sainsbury's, the country's second biggest supermarket, said it was an apolitical organization.