500 business leaders call for new deal in Europe

More than 500 businessmen, including former Marks & Spencer chief executive Sir Stuart Rose and the heads of Next, B&Q and Harvey Nichols, have launched a campaign to negotiate a better deal for Britain in the EU.

After the Conservative party vowed to push to change Britain's place in Europe, a group including Phones4U and Superdrug founders – John Caudwell and Peter Goldstein, respectively – will today call for Brussels to devolve more powers to the UK.

Each member of the group, which also includes British American Tobacco chairman Richard Burrows and Carpetright founder and chairman Lord Harris, has signed up to a statement which says: "We believe that the Government is right to seek a new deal for the EU and for the UK's role in Europe. Far from being a threat to our economic interests, a flexible, competitive Europe, with more powers devolved from Brussels, is essential for growth, jobs and access to markets."

The group said it is not debating whether Britain should stay in the EU, but instead "supports a full and far-reaching renegotiation" of its relationship with the block. Alan Halsall, co-chairman of Business for Britain and chairman of Silver Cross, the luxury pram-maker, said: "Business for Britain has been formed because many would have you believe that business doesn't want politicians to try and renegotiate a better deal from Europe.

"But we know that jobs and economic growth depend on a more flexible, looser relationship with the EU."

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