Brexit debate

Food and drink bosses back EU membership

By Michael Stones contact

- Last updated on GMT

The bosses of nearly 200 firms have signed an open letter backing Britain's continued EU membership
The bosses of nearly 200 firms have signed an open letter backing Britain's continued EU membership

Related tags: Chief executive, European union

Quitting the EU would “deter investment, threaten jobs and put the economy at risk”, according to the bosses of food and drink firms who joined nearly 200 other business leaders in signing an open letter published in The Times. But big food retailers – Tesco, Sainsbury and Morrisons – chose not to sign.

Food and drink bosses who backed the letter included: Alan Clark, ceo SABMilller, Marc Bolland, ceo Marks & Spencer, Paul Walsh, chief executive Compass Group and Paul Polman, ceo, Unilever.

Richard Clothier, md

Other high profile executives signing the letter included: Andy Clarke, chief executive of Asda, Ivan Menezes, chief executive Diageo, Richard Clothier, md, Wyke Farms and former National Farmers Union president Sir Peter Kendall.

The signatories – who claimed to represent every sector and UK – together employed hundreds of thousands of people. The letter, featured below, claimed after the prime minister’s renegotiation,  Britain wold be better off within a reformed EU.

“Business needs unrestricted access to the European market of 500M in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs,”​ the letter claimed. “Britain will be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member of the EU.”

‘Safer, stronger and better off’

Few Food and Drink Federation (FDF) members appeared to have signed the letter, with one exception being Unilever. An FDF spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “FDF, on behalf of our members, continues to follow developments around EU policy closely and to offer support to our members as they develop their own response.

“FDF does not have a corporate policy on the referendum.

500M customers

“Business needs unrestricted access to the European market of 500M in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs. Britain will be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member of the EU.”

  • The Times ​letter

“The results of our membership survey will be presented to FDF’s executive committee at the end of this month; next steps will be a matter for that committee.”

Meanwhile, Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott told FoodManufacture.co.uk: Panic seems to be spreading in Number 10 as support for David Cameron’s deal plummets. The EU treaties will only change by 1% if it ever comes into force – there is very little reform on the table.

“The only way to take back control of our economy to help British businesses to flourish is to Vote Leave.”

Boris Johnson, lord mayor of London​slammed those who spread “alarm and anxiety” ​about the risks of an EU exit.

“We have a great opportunity now to strike new deals for Britain to be the hub of new trading arrangements around the world,” ​he told BBC News.

Letter published in The Times

“The businesses we lead represent every sector and region of the United Kingdom. Together we employ hundreds of thousands of people across the country.

“Following the prime minister’s renegotiation, we believe that Britain is better off staying in a reformed EU. He has secured a commitment from the EU to reduce the burden of regulation, deepen the single market and to sign off crucial international trade deals.

“Business needs unrestricted access to the European market of 500M in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs. 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.”

Signatories from food and drink firms

  • Alan Clark, ceo, SABMilller
  • Marc Bolland, ceo, Marks & Spencer
  • Paul Walsh, chief executive, Compass Group
  • Andy Clarke, chief executive, Asda
  • Ivan Menezes, chief executive, Diageo
  • Laurent Lacassagne, chairman and chief executive, Chivas Brothers
  • Ian Breminer, md, Complete Coffee
  • Tim Gosnell, md, Gosnells Beverages
  • Rooney Anand, chief executive, Green King
  • Juliette Polge de Combret, director Green Rendez-Vous
  • Allen Hogan, md, Hogan’s Cider
  • Christopher Parker, md, London and Scottish International
  • Bryon Dixon, ceo, Micro-Fresh International
  • Milsa Mink, chairperson, Nordic Bakery
  • Geeta Sidhu-Robb, ceo and founder, Nosh Detox
  • Tim Steiner, ceo, Ocado Group
  • Charlie Thuilier, md, Oppo Brothers
  • Graham Spencer, executive director, Plants for Europe
  • Graham Chipchase, chief executive, Rexam
  • Melanie Goldsmith, director, Smith & Sinclair
  • Billy Walker, md, The Benriach Distillery Company
  • Ruth Rogers, owner, The River Café
  • Oliver Dochez, ceo, Two Guys From Brussels
  • Paul Polman, ceo, Unilever
  • Peter Kendall, director, WJ Kendall Contracting
  • Kasim Ali, director, Waterloo Tea
  • Richard Clothier, md, Wyke Farms

Related topics: Diageo, SABMiller

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