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Business leaders react to EU referendum news

Nearly 200 business leaders have signed a letter urging the UK to stay in the European Union

A group of UK business leaders have written an open letter, published in The Times, backing Britain to remain a member of the EU.

Following prime minister David Cameron’s announcement that a referendum on whether the UK should stay in the EU will be held on 23 June, 197 leaders signed the letter calling for “unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people".

This is the letter to The Times newspaper in full:

“The businesses we lead represent every sector and region of the United Kingdom. Together we employ more than one million people across the country.

“Following the prime minister’s renegotiation, we believe that Britain is better off staying in a reformed European Union. 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 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs. We believe that leaving the EU would deter investment and threaten jobs. It would put the economy at risk.

"Britain will be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member of the European Union.”

Signatories include Roger Carr, the chairman of BAE Systems; Ivan Menezes, CEO for Diageo; Carolyn McCall, CEO of EasyJet; Stewart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick Airport; Shriti Vadera, chair of Santander UK; and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever.

Paul Drechsler, CBI president, said that Europe is “our passport to a world of opportunity to trade in every corner of the globe".

“The weight of more than 500 million citizens gives us a stronger hand when negotiating easy access to the rest of the world for British companies, helping us be part of greater numbers of better quality deals,” he said. “EU trade deals are powerful. But we simply don’t have enough of them. Today EU membership covers about 60% of the UK’s global trade.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady has called for more information on what working people stand to lose if the UK leaves the EU. “Workers’ rights are on the line in this referendum,” she said. “It’s the EU that gives working people the right to paid holiday, parental leave, equal treatment for part-timers and much more.”