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Firms 'react with fury' after being asked to sign letter backing Theresa May's Brexit strategy

2 min read

Some of Britain's biggest companies have reacted angrily after being asked by Downing Street to sign a letter backing the Government's Brexit strategy.

According to Sky News, the letter has been sent to FTSE100-listed firms, as well as other companies, seeking their support.

It says its signatories "believe this is a good time for employers to work with Government and Parliament to make a success of Brexit and secure a bright future for our country".

The letter goes on: "As business leaders, we have a duty to our shareholders and employees to continue to grow our businesses and ensure that they remain strong.

"As part of this we are also determined to see the UK continue to be a prosperous and united force for good in the world and are ready to play our full part to achieve this as Britain leaves the European Union."

One unnamed boss said they had refused to put their names to it because of "the current state of chaos surrounding the [Brexit] talks".

The snub comes amid growing tensions between London and Brussels over the slow progress of the negotiations so far.

Theresa May's predecessor, David Cameron, often used supportive letters signed by the chief executives of major businesses to bolster his political campaigns, including during the EU referendum.

Until now, the Prime Minister has refused to go down the same route, and did not make use of the tactic during the general election.

However, Sky News says the letter could be published as soon as tomorrow - despite the refusal of many companies to sign it.

A Downing Street spokesman said he would not comment on leaked letters.

But he said: "There is a lot of engagement between Number 10 and business, who have an important voice in the conversation that's taking place.

"We've made clear that one of our aims is making sure we deliver a Brexit that's as smooth as possible for business and gives business the confidence that they need going forward."

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, a supporter of the pro-EU Open Britain group, said: "It’s little wonder the Government’s letter-writing campaign has leaked when the voices of British business are so opposed to their hard Brexit plan.

"Just today, businesses in sectors ranging from farming to hospitality have reacted with fury to the Government’s leaked plans to damage our economy by carrying out a draconian crackdown on immigration from the EU.

"If the Government wants a better reception from British business, they should end their hard Brexit rhetoric and focus on maintaining the economic benefits of EU membership as they have promised."

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