Pro-Europeans are launching a fightback today against growing demands for a referendum on the new European Union treaty.
The Coalition for the Reform Treaty will argue that the treaty is in Britain's interests as well as the EU's because it will lead to more efficient, effective and democratic decision-making. The long-awaited response by pro-European businessmen and politicians comes after the campaign in favour of a referendum gathered momentum during the summer.
Roland Rudd, chairman of Business for New Europe, said: "We have heard a lot of negative things about the treaty. Many are scare- stories or based on inaccuracies. We took the initiative to form this coalition to make a more positive case."
The new network aims to co-ordinate pro-European activity, rebut Eurosceptics' arguments and lobby for the treaty when it is debated in Parliament.
Business bosses joining the coalition in a personal capacity include Sir Philip Hampton, (Sainsbury), Niall FitzGerald (Reuters), Sir Michael Bishop (BMI), Phillipe Varin (Corus), Roger Carr (Centrica), Sir Martin Sorrell (WPP) and Sir Mike Rake (KPMG ).
The campaign begins as the European Commission formally ended its long fight to persuade Britain to abandon the mile and the pint in favour of the kilometre and litre. EU industry commissioner Gunter Verheugen said it was a "pointless battle".