THE CHAIRMAN of a Eurosceptic business campaign said there is growing support for Britain to leave the European Union.
Speaking at the Yorkshire launch of Business for Britain, Alan Halsall said the power of Brussels has created a democratic deficit in Britain and the country has “a fabulous future” outside the EU.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “There is a mood in business to say let’s get off this bus before it’s too late... I don’t think we have anything like the changes the Prime Minister was expecting to get through renegotiation so I think now is the time to say enough’s enough.”
Organisers claimed the campaign has the support of 62 business leaders in Yorkshire and are confident that the list will grow in the lead-up to the referendum, which will take place before 2018.
David Cameron is seeking reforms including protection for non-euro countries, measures to boost competitiveness, an end to the obligation for ever-closer union and restrictions to benefits for immigrants.
Once a deal is reached, he will allow ministers to campaign on either side.
Mr Halsall said he felt strongly that in the European debate, the voice of business had to be heard and in a different way to the position expressed by the Confederation of British Industry and multinationals.
He added: “We should be very confident about this country. We are in such a different position than we were in 1975 when we last had a referendum. It was tough, there were strikes and all sorts of things going wrong.
“We are now the fifth biggest economy in the world. Our economy is booming because of the British people and what they are doing despite of the EU.
“If we were not in the EU I think we could do an awful lot more.”
Mr Halsall is an entrepreneur who turned around the Skipton-based Silver Cross pram manufacturer and sold it to Chinese investors last year for a reported £50m.
Business for Britain is a member of the cross-party Vote Leave pressure group. A spokesman said national supporters include entrepreneurs Luke Johnson and John Caudwell and City financiers Crispin Odey and Peter Cruddas, who is a treasurer of the group.
Yorkshire businessman Carl Chambers has been appointed regional chairman of Business for Britain.
He is chairman of Harrogate-based commercial gas supplier CNG Ltd and a non-executive director at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
He said he wants to ensure the message gets out that not all businesses are in favour of staying in the EU. He added: “There’s a range of businesses from the smaller local hairdressers right the way through to sizeable companies that not only see benefits in leaving the EU in terms of cost, but actually see benefit in terms of growth.”
He added: “The European Union has been a very costly exercise for the UK. We are spending £350m a week and that’s on top of the cost of complying with the sheer mountain of regulation and law which come out of Brussels. The reason I have got involved is if you are going to have regulations and laws that affect businesses as well as the general population, those laws should be passed as close to those people as possible. UK laws that affect UK businesses should be passed by UK politicians. We have got 50 per cent of our laws and regulations coming from Brussels. It’s unrepresentive, it’s unaccounable and it’s costly.”
He played down the risks of Britain leaving the EU. He added: “Whatever jobs are linked to trade with Europe are linked with trade to Europe, not with the EU. It is perfectly feasible, in fact, perfectly likely that the UK will be able to enter into a very good trade agreement with the EU.”
He said Britain would become a more successful trading nation and could agree new trade deals with places like China.
An exit from the EU would also allow Britain to ditch burdensome and over-the-top regulations, although Mr Chambers acknowledged that Europe has produced some good laws too, such as protection for employees.
Business for Britain released the following list of supporters:
Steve Atherton, Astral Communications & Electronics Ltd.
Dennis Baker, Burkinshaw Printing
Peter Baxter, RH Development
Michael Biggin, Admiral Asset Management
Gordon Black, Black Family Investments
Steve Broadhurst, WTH North
Adrian Buckley, Buckley Jewellery
Andrew Carter, Carter Towler Ltd.
Carl Chambers, CNG Ltd
John Coldwell, InfoQuest
David Crabtree, Crabtree Care Homes
Mark Cunliffe-Lister, Swinton Park Hotel
Brian Denney, Henderson Employee Benefits
Simon Dobson, Greenfield Produce Ltd.
Kevin Dowd, Durham University
Robin Dundas, Zetland Estates
John Earle Jacobs, Earle Wines
Rachel Elnaugh, Omnia One
David Fenney, ADT
Barry Gleeson, Pindar Group
John Guthrie, Broadland Properties Ltd.
Mark Hill, Simple Accounting Ltd
Phillip Hodson, Oval
Jeremy Hopkinson OBE, Hopkinsons
Adam Hosker, Bespoke Finance Limited
Ken Houlbrook, Supercrease Ltd.
Geof Hughes, Speedlink Express Worldwide
Gareth Hunt, Copiserv
Richard Jackson, Yorkshire Ventures
Nish Kanabar, Castlegate Family Stores
Stuart Lamb, William Lamb Footwear
Andrew Lindsay, Lupton Fawcett Lee & Priestley
Stuart Long, The Office of Stuart Long
Adrian Lowe, Lawson Hubbard Lowe
Stephen Martin, Arco Ltd.
Andrew McAllister, Dovecote Park
Zoe Moss, Active by Nature Ltd.
Robert Ogle, Robert Ogle
David Petch, D P Motorfactors
Richard Priestley, elawstudent
Andrew Rafter, The Driffield Fruit Centre
Christopher Rea, AESSEAL
Peter Rogerson, Deans Computer Services PLC
Richard Shore, Mentor Training
Christine Smith, retired
Richard Storey Bt CBE, Soditic Group
Christopher Taylor, James Robinson Fibres Ltd.
Eileen Taylor, Drewton Estate
James Taylor, Texfelt Ltd.
Cameron Thomas, CT Design
Denzil Vallance, Great Heck Brewing Co. Ltd.
Martin Vallance, Vallances
John Waga, Redline Consultants Ltd.
Irving Warnett, JIW Limited
Edward Malcolm Weaving, WW Hotels
Karen Weaving, Rendezvous Hotel
Michael Whitaker, Mitre Estates Ltd.
John Whyte, J R Whyte Ltd.
Leigh Woolard, Arrow Digital Agency
Stuart Wright, Wright Yorkshire