David Cameron and his advisers reportedly told UK businesses to stay silent on their pro-EU positions so as not to jeopordise the Prime Minister’s sensitive European membership negotiations and the 2016 referendum.
The Prime Minister is worried that if the companies speak out, they could undermine him as he negotiates to get certain concessions from the Union.
An “ally” of David Cameron stated that the government has made it clear to businesses to “shut up [on a British exit] until a deal is done with the EU”, reported the Financial Times.
The paper reports that the Prime Minister and advisers including Ed Llewellyn, Daniel Korski and Sheridan Westlake told businesses to not speak out as the negotiations picked up speed when Cameron visited Spain and Portugal last week.
The news comes as a Daily Mail poll conducted by Survation revealed that 51 per cent of its respondents would vote for the UK to leave the Union if the referendum was held tomorrow, whilst 49 per cent back to keep things as they are. This marks a significant change in attitudes as more people now becoming Eurosceptics.
Speaking out would be ‘counterproductive’
A person close to Number 10 has said that the Prime Minister believes public statements on the matter will be “counterproductive”.
The news come several months after the Confederation of British Industry said companies should “speak out early” and believes “it is in the interests of business for the UK to remain in a reformed EU”.
The negotiations are entering a particularly sensitive stage with Cameron hoping to make some headway at a meeting of the European Council in December. Should that not be successful, it is expected he will return at a summit in March.
Yes and No campaigns nearing launches
To make matters more complicated, the campaigns for and against a Brexit are gearing up to launch in the coming months. A Yes campaign that hopes to become the officially designated pro-EU one is being spearheaded by Roland Rudd, the PR executive and involves the former Business Secretary Peter Mandelson and Tory MP Damian Green. It plans to hold its official launch next month.
A campaign favouring a Brexit, ran by Matthew Elliott, is also expecting to have its official launch in October, before the Conservatives have their party conference.