Branson joins call for Britain to work with EU
Richard Branson and other leading figures in British business called Thursday on the government elected after next month's general election to work closely with Europe to revive the economy.
Branson, who heads the Virgin Group, was among 15 signatories of a letter published in the Financial Times newspaper which appealed for cooperation with Brussels.
"We call on all parties to campaign on the basis that (Britain) must play a central and positive role in the European Union," said the business leaders, who have formed a group called "Business for New Europe."
"In order to cut the deficit and achieve economic and employment growth, we need a government working strongly within the European political mainstream," it continued.
"It is there, and not on the fringes of Europe, that debates are taking place on these vital issues, and where our voice must be heard."
The worst recession in Britain since the 1930s has inflated the country's deficit, which is forecast to hit a record 167 billion pounds (260 billion dollars, 190 billion euros) in 2009-2010.
Another signatory of the letter was Leon Brittan, a former Conservative lawmaker and cabinet minister in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher, and later a European Commissioner.
Brittan signed in his capacity as vice-chairman of UBS Investment Bank.
Others were Guy Dawson, the vice-chairman of Nomura Investment Bank, and John Kerr, a deputy chairman of Anglo-Dutch oil group Shell.
The letter came on the day of the second televised debate ahead of the May 6 general election between the three leaders of the main political parties here.
It could provide ammunition for Prime Minister Gordon Brown, of the ruling Labour Party, and Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg.
Both men could use it in the TV clash on foreign policy to attack leader of the main opposition Conservatives, David Cameron.
Cameron's decision to pull his party's European lawmakers out of the European People's Party -- the main centre-right grouping in the European Parliament -- angered leaders of some countries on the continent.
Clegg in particular is viewed as being pro-European -- he was a lawmaker at the European Parliament before getting involved in British politics.
© 2010 AFP