Businesses split as uncertainty takes hold over Cameron’s promise of an EU referendum

Divided views have already emerged

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Divisions have already emerged among businesses about David Cameron’s election pledge to hold a referendum over the UK’s membership of the EU.

Cameron has promised a referendum before the end of 2017.

The head of the CBI, a business trade body, which represents 190,000 businesses that employ nearly 7 million people around the world, will say in a speech later that Europe and the City of London need each other.

"Europe needs the City to produce growth and fund EU competitiveness. And the City needs Europe as a gateway to clients, business and investment. EU reform is a chance for both to benefit," Sir Mike Rake, president of the CBI, will say in a speech on Wednesday.

Lord Anthony Bamford, founder of UK construction equipment firm JCB, with David Cameron

Sir Mike's sentiment has been echoed by Vodafone and Deutsche Bank this week, proving that concerns over Cameron’s plan have affected business and banking.

The Vodafone chief Vittorio Colao said that the UK needs to stay in the EU if it hopes to compete with China and the US in the digital marketplace. Companies that have their EU operations headquartered in London could run into difficulties if the UK were to split.

Meanwhile Deutsche Bank has set up a working group to review the status of its 9000 staff in the UK were a referendum to result in a split.

Not all businesses are convinced that an independent UK would be bad news. “We are the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world. We could exist on our own, peacefully and sensibly,” said Lord Anthony Bamford, founder of UK construction equipment firm JCB.

David Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU before the end of 2017. Some businesses are pressuring him to move the date forward to dispel uncertainty, which can destabilise markets.