Tory approach to Europe ‘biggest risk to British prosperity in a generation’

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Business leaders have a “patriotic duty” to speak out about the benefits of Britain’s membership of the European Union, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander has said.

Mr Alexander warned that the Conservative Party’s approach to Europe poses “the biggest risk to British national prosperity in a generation”, with David Cameron putting Britain “on the conveyor belt to exit” from the EU despite being aware that it represents “a remarkably irresponsible gamble”.

The shadow cabinet member urged British businesses to speak out now about the potential economic consequences of “Brexit”, warning: “If you wait, it could be too late”.

In a speech to ambassadors from all 28 EU member states, Mr Alexander said pro-EU business leaders should learn the lessons of the Scottish independence debate, when many companies delayed expressing a view until the last minute, but were then seen as playing a crucial role in shaping the final days of the campaign.

Mr Alexander acknowledged that many business leaders are wary of getting involved in political debates.

But he added: “For business to speak up for Britain’s place in Europe is not about party political advantage, it is about recognising both where our country’s national interest and your business interests lies.

“It is about patriotic duty. And good business sense.”

Leaving the EU would mean “actively choosing an economy with weaker investment, less trade with the rest of the world, poorer productivity and worse living standards,” said Mr Alexander.