Campaign Backing `Brexit' Adds 250 Business Executives

The Financial Implications of a Possible 'Brexit'
  • Former HSBC CEO Geoghegan signs letter from Vote Leave group
  • Poll shows just 14% of small businesses say EU helps hiring

Former HSBC Holdings Plc Chief Executive Officer Michael Geoghegan is among 250 business leaders backing the push for the U.K. to leave the European Union.

Geoghegan was CEO of HSBC from 2006 until 2010 and his support for “Brexit” stands in contrast to the bank’s current management, which warns it will send 1,000 staff to Paris from London if voters side with withdrawal in the June 23 referendum.

Michael Geoghegan
Michael Geoghegan
Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

Others on the list released Saturday by the Vote Leave group were John Moulton, chairman of Better Capital LLP; Tim Martin, chairman of U.K. pub operator JD Wetherspoon Plc; and David Ross, founder of Carphone Warehouse Group Plc.

"With our growing list of business supporters, Vote Leave will make that case that whilst the EU may be good for big multinationals, for smaller businesses it acts as a job-destruction regulatory machine," said Matthew Elliott, CEO of the group. "Jobs, wages and the economy will thrive when we take back control."

The group also announced John Longworth will chair its business advisory council after resigning as director general of the British Chambers of Commerce for breaking with its membership on "Brexit."

Business Survey

Vote Leave also released a YouGov poll of over 1,000 small and medium-sized enterprises that showed just 14 percent believe the EU makes it easier for their business to employ people.

With the future of the U.K. economy at the heart of the debate over whether to stay or leave, each side is seeking to gain the support of corporate executives to promote its case.

Bosses from 36 of the FTSE 100 companies recently wrote to the Times newspaper endorsing continued membership in the bloc. The Confederation of British Industry has said most of its members support remaining.

‘Clear’ Evidence

"The evidence is absolutely clear," Business Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement released by the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign. "Every major survey of businesses, large and small, shows a clear majority of firms want to remain in the EU.”

Sir Michael Rake, chairman of BT and a fellow supporter of the In campaign, told the BBC the majority of businesses are in favor of staying in the EU. The Leave campaign are "not coming forward" with recommendations on how the UK could operate if it were to leave the union.

"Many of the options that are talked about - Norway, Switzerland, Canada - are not realistic," Rake said. They "would require us to have the same commitments, the same free movement of labour, the same migration policies, and pay into the budget as we currently do - without any influence."

Separately, hedge funds may commission “Brexit” exit polls to help make profitable currency trades on June 23 before the official result of the EU referendum is declared, the Times newspaper reported, citing people it didn’t identify. Traders want to exploit a loophole in electoral law that forbids publication of surveys while voting takes place, the newspaper said.

(Updates with Sir Michael Rake comments in 10th and 11th paragraphs)

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