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EU vote 'danger to jobs' - Miliband

Ed Miliband will seek to win over the business community ahead of May's general election with a warning that a Conservative government holding a referendum on Britain's EU membership posed a "clear and present danger" to jobs and prosperity.

The Labour leader will kick off the first day of the official campaign period by launching his party's manifesto for business, which includes a pledge to "return Britain to a leadership role" in Brussels.

A full-page advertisement has also been taken by the Opposition in the Financial Times setting out Labour's determination to " put the interests of Britain and British business first rather than risk an EU exit".

But the latest attempt to overcome perceptions of an anti-business stance came as one prominent corporate donor renewed concerns that Mr Miliband was penalising "wealth creators" and should take lessons from Margaret Thatcher.

Hull City Football Club owner Assem Allam, who has given up to £400,000 to the Opposition in what he says is a bid to reduce reliance on trade unions, said the Tories' ability to run the economy was a "strong point".

Mr Miliband will be joined by shadow chancellor Ed Balls and shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna at the launch of the 22-page manifesto, the first of the series of in-depth documents set to be published between now and the May 7 poll.

It features policies such as creating an independent National Infrastructure Commission, cutting and then freezing business rates for small business properties and setting up a British Investment Bank to support a network of regional banks.

But the party leader will focus most attention on the EU question in a bid to exploit business fears over the consequences of a British exit.

Accusing David Cameron of caving in to an increasingly exit-friendly party to promise a public vote by 2017, he warned of the potential for an "extraordinary loss of British influence".

In a speech to Bloomberg in London, Mr Miliband is expected to say: "There could be nothing worse for our country or for our great exporting businesses than playing political games with our membership in Europe.

"I want to be clear about what is at stake in this election for British business. David Cameron promises a referendum on an arbitrary timetable, after a set of negotiations on treaty changes which require the agreement of 27 other member states.

"He promises a vote on our membership of the European Union organised by a divided Conservative Party, over half of whom want to leave, and a Prime Minister who doesn't seem to know his own mind.

"And, at the same time, he promises a leadership contest in the Conservative Party to succeed him when candidates will be vying against each other for who can be the most extreme on Europe.

"It is a recipe for two years of uncertainty in which inward investment will drain away, two years of chaos in which businesses will not be able to plan for the future, and two years of wasted opportunities for progress, for profit, for prosperity: a clear and present danger to British jobs, British business and British prosperity.

"It threatens to leave UK businesses out of a market that gives them access to the world's largest trading bloc. It's simply the wrong direction for our country. If you care about strong foundations, if you care about long-term stability, if you care about prosperity, then Britain must be a committed member of a reformed European Union, not threatening to leave, not locked out of the room.

"Instead we should be reforming Europe from the inside to support the needs of business, to build an EU that spending its budget wisely, to build an EU with fair rules on immigration. We'll show strong leadership to get the best for Britain. But we won't condemn this country to years of uncertainty, years of insecurity, by threatening our European future."

Mr Allam, the owner of Allam Marine, an industrial generator manufacturer. told the Telegraph it was "difficult to say" whether Labour would win the election and would not reveal which party he would support.

But he said: "The only way to make everyone rich is to support the rich to be richer. If we carry on talking this language it is not in my opinion good for the future of the party.

"We need to stop saying tax the wealthy, do this, do that, mansion tax, we need something different. Can someone convince me that without wealth creators we will do better as a nation? No.

"The Conservatives have got a point, a strong point, which is their ability to manage the economy. I think Ed needs to be a bit more right-wing."

Mr Miliband's desire to close the gap between rich and poor was "annoying", he said.

"Closing the gap is a statement made to attract voters. It is not true. The mansion tax penalises wealth creators. They are paying high levels of corporation tax, national insurance, they are employing people who pay tax.

"When I was in Egypt the dictator talked similar language."

A Labour spokesman said: "Allam has been a huge supporter of the party. Like all donors he is entitled to his views. But unlike the Conservatives, Labour will back British business to create the high-skilled, high-wage jobs our country needs, not risk jobs and investment by sleepwalking towards EU exit."

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