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EU referendum is 'choice between the devil and the deep blue sea', senior business leader warns

The EU referendum is a choice between "the devil and the deep blue sea", one of the UK's most senior business leaders is expected to say today.

The UK EU referendum is in June Credit: PA

At the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) annual conference in London, BCC director-general John Longworth is expected to urge business owners to look at the wider picture before casting their vote.

"The people of our country now face a choice, between staying in what is essentially an unreformed European Union, with the Eurozone moving off in another direction and with Britain sitting on the margins; or leaving the European Union, with all the near-term uncertainty and disruption that this will cause," he will say.

"Undoubtedly a tough choice. You might say, a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.

"Decision making in business suffers from the pressures of the short-term and is naturally focused on the interests of the particular business concerned.

"If I were to ask the business community one thing in this referendum, it would be to look to the long-term and the wider interests of the society in which you operate, and make your choice based not on the next financial year, but on what you want for your children and grandchildren."

The Rolls Royce factory at Goodwood near Chichester, West Sussex Credit: PA

It comes after Rolls-Royce chief executive Torsten Muller-Otvos wrote a letter to some 8,000 British workers, warning them that the business could be harmed by an 'out' vote on June 23.

In the message, leaked to the Guardian, he said there was no guarantee that the UK would be granted a free trade deal with the EU if it left.

While stressing that the final decision was up to British citizens, he said should tariff barriers such as export fees be introduced, it would mean higher costs and higher prices, as well as potential job cuts.

Meanwhile, leading 'out' campaigner and Mayor of London Boris Johnson will face opposition from his brother, as Orpington MP Jo Johnson is set to warn that science and technology firms could suffer a "decade of uncertainty" following a British exit from the European Union.

Jo Johnson will warn of the impact of Brexit on science and technology firms Credit: PA

In a planned speech at Cambridge University, the Universities Minister is expected to say that the UK could survive outside the EU - but that its status as a "science superpower" would be put in jeopardy.

Cambridge is home to more than 1,500 hi-tech companies, employing 60,000 people between them.

Mr Johnson will call on the 'out' campaign to explain how they would compensate for the loss of EU funding.

My clear view is that a vote to leave would be a leap in the dark, and one that would put the Cambridge phenomenon and our status as a science superpower at risk. We put in around 12 per cent of all EU funding, but win around 15 per cent of research funding, making us one of the largest beneficiaries of EU science programmes.

We could of course survive and prosper outside. I'm not saying we would lose eight centuries of achievement, or turn Silicon Fen back to marshland.

But those who want to leave must explain how they will sustain the same levels of investment and the same depth of partnership if we were outside the EU.

– Jo Johnson, Universities Minister

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