Published: 19:02 EDT, 24 July 2013 | Updated: 02:52 EDT, 25 July 2013>
A group of businessmen and retired mandarins are waging a behind-the-scenes propaganda war aimed at derailing moves to take Britain out of the EU.
Appalled by the prospect of a vote to withdraw, they have formed ‘Business For New Europe’ to fight a public and private campaign to keep Britain in the union.
They are raising a multi-million-pound war chest to secure support from international leaders in the run-up to the vote which they now suspect is inevitable.
Campaign: A group of businessmen and retired mandarins are waging a propaganda war aimed at derailing moves to take Britain out of the EU. Roland Rudd, right, pictured with Lord Peter Mandelson, is the driving force behind the group
They are lobbying world leaders to go public with warnings that Britain will become isolated economically and politically if it votes to quit the EU.
They hope if enough of them speak out British voters will take fright and vote to stay shackled to Brussels.
David Cameron has promised a renegotiation of UK membership of the EU if the Conservatives win the 2015 general election, followed by a referendum two years later.
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It will be the first national vote on Britain’s membership of the EU since 1975, with the latest YouGov poll suggesting the number who want to leave comfortably outnumber those who want to stay by 43 per cent to 35 per cent.
Roland Rudd, an arch networker and lobbyist who runs the successful City PR company Finsbury, is the driving force behind the group.
He is a confidante of Tony Blair, Lord Mandelson, the former Cabinet minister and EU Commissioner, and David Miliband, Labour’s last foreign secretary.
Pledge: David Cameron has promised a renegotiation of UK membership of the EU if the Conservatives win the 2015 general election, followed by a referendum two years later
They are intensifying their PR drive after heavyweight Tory eurosceptics including Education Secretary Michael Gove indicated they would vote to quit the EU.
In the past week the diplomatic offensive has intensified. The Australian foreign minister Bob Carr, in a letter to the Foreign Secretary William Hague, said: ‘Australia recognises the UK’s strength and resilience and looks forward to seeing it continue as a leading economy and effective power. Strong active membership of the EU contributes to this.’
Two days earlier a leaked memo from the Japanese government submitted to Mr Hague warned that up to 1,300 Japanese firms with British outlets could review their position if Britain does not continue to play a ‘major role’ in the EU.
Business For New Europe does not claim to have prompted the Australian or Japanese comments, but its supporters are talking openly of similar interventions in the coming weeks from Canada and South Korea, fuelling the suspicion that it is co-ordinating international and domestic opposition to the Cameron plan.
One of Prince William’s key advisers also warned this week that leaving the EU would make Britain ‘an irrelevance’ on the world stage.
Sir David Manning, a former British ambassador to Washington who was complicit in the secret deal between Tony Blair and George Bush to go to war in Iraq, is not a member of the group, but is known to be sympathetic with its aims.
And when the Italian prime minister Enrico Letta visited Britain last week he held a dinner for a small select group of businessmen at the embassy in London. Mr Rudd and Lord Mandelson were both present. Mr Letta too spoke out against British withdrawal.
As part of the ongoing behind-the-scenes efforts Mr Rudd led delegations to meet the Spanish foreign and economic minsters in Barcelona and their counterparts in the Polish government in Warsaw at the end of last year.
Similar trips are scheduled for Berlin and the Netherlands after Germany’s elections in September.
The pro-EU lobbyists’ offensive coincides with a raft of economic figures which show that Britain could actually prosper outside the failing eurozone.
Only this week statistics showed that Britain attracted more investment from overseas than any other EU country last year. The number of foreign investment projects rose by 11 per cent to 1,559, according to a report by UK Trade and Investment.
Want out: A poll suggests the number of Britons who want to leave the EU comfortably outnumber those who want to stay by 43 per cent to 35 per cent
The funding created or safeguarded 170,000 British jobs, a further sign that Britain is extending its lead over rivals in the eurozone.
A report by the International Monetary Fund showed that every land mass in the world is now expanding economically except Europe. The Commonwealth is growing at 7.2 per cent, while the eurozone is shrinking.
A report by the Office for National Statistics showed that exports to the EU are now at their lowest proportion of Britain’s overall trade since the present measure was introduced in 1988.
Despite the plethora of positive figures there has been evidence in the past two months that the covert campaign by Mr Rudd is paying rich dividends.
In May President Obama, speaking at a Downing Street press conference, infuriated Tory MPs by saying: ‘I think that the UK’s participation in the EU is an expression of its influence and its role in the world.’
It is no coincidence that one of the most senior backers of the Rudd group is Sir Nigel Sheinwald, a director of Shell, who is an ardent europhile.
He was British ambassador to the EU from 2000 to 2003 and ambassador to the US from 2007 until last year. He is a hugely respected figure in the White House.
‘The Obama Exocets were the first big coup for Rudd and his group,’ said one senior government source.
Mr Blair and Lord Mandelson, while not members of Business For New Europe, travel extensively overseas using their contacts in foreign governments to urge them to speak against Britain pulling out.
Former diplomats who back the group include Lord Jay, who was senior mandarin at the Foreign Office from 2002 until July 2006, Sir Stephen Wall, who was senior EU adviser to Mr Blair in Downing Street, and Sir Andrew Cahn, the Chef de Cabinet to former Labour leader Lord Kinnock when he was an EU commissioner.
Daniel Hannan, the leading eurosceptic Tory MEP, said: ‘Why should we take their predictions seriously?
'Mr Rudd and his supporters all warned us we would be doomed if we did not join the euro. I think they were wrong then and they are now.’
Mr Rudd was unavailable for comment.
Source : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2377177/The-shadowy-lobbyists-waging-propaganda-war-Britain-EU.html