Yesterday saw the publication of an open letter in the Times – orchestrated by Downing Street before the date for the vote was even announced – showing the
underoverwhelming support that the governments position commands from the UK business community. A week ago, Cameron was proclaiming that 80 of the FTSE100 companies would back him but by the weekend the expectations were being managed so that we only expected around 50. In the end it turned out to be a pathetic 36.
Interesting amongst those signatories was the lack of support from supermarkets – with only American owned Asda signing the letter – and the banking sector. Chinese owned HSBC signed but British owned Lloyd, Barclays and RBS declined.
Even more damaging for the Prime Minister’s set piece was the lack of support from his own panel of 20 business advisors. Six of them refused to sign the letter : Alison Brittain, chief executive of Whitbread; Jeff Fairburn, who runs the housebuilder Persimmon; Liv Garfield, the Severn Trent boss; Robert Noel, Land Securities’ chief executive; Steve Varley, the UK chairman of EY; and Nigel Wilson, chief executive of Legal & General.
Not exactly what I would call solid support for the Staying In campaign is it?
And here’s another interesting little factoid about those signatories :
Fifteen of the 36 FTSE firms whose bosses signed the letter received more than €120million – around £94million – in grants from the European Commission between 2007 and 2014;