Big British businesses on Thursday asked Prime Minister David Cameron to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union, as he prepares to ask EU leaders for a new deal.
Cameron, who won an unexpectedly decisive victory in last month's general election, has promised to recast Britain's relationship with the 28-member bloc and hold a referendum on membership by the end of 2017.
As Cameron prepared to present his proposals to an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, 27 bosses from among the biggest listed British companies including BT, Virgin Group and easyJet to the likes of Hogan's Cider, a brewery in the central English county of Warwickshire, said Britain should stay in the EU.
"As business leaders from a variety of sectors, and from businesses of all sizes, we believe it is overwhelmingly in Britain's interests to stay in the EU," they said in a letter to The Times newspaper published on Thursday.
The letter is the latest indication that "In" and "Out" campaigns are starting to mobilise. A Eurosceptic group published a report this week arguing that Britain could prosper outside the EU, which Britain joined in 1973.
"The EU is far from perfect and that is why the prime minister is right to call for change to make it more efficient, streamlined and competitive," the pro-EU business leaders said.
"The best way to secure that is to be in the room fighting for it, not outside knocking on the door."
Signatories included Mike Rake, chairman of BT, Roger Carr, chairman of BAE Systems, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, Carolyn McCall, chief executive of easyJet, as well as Allen Hogan, founder of Hogan's Cider, and John McKerchar, the managing director of Turnberry Rug Works.