Prominent East Anglian referendum campaigners trade blows over Britain’s future in the European Union

PUBLISHED: 19:04 12 October 2015 | UPDATED: 19:04 12 October 2015

Former Marks & Spencer chief Stuart Rose is to head the drive for Britain to stay in the EU. David Jones/PA Wire

Former Marks & Spencer chief Stuart Rose is to head the drive for Britain to stay in the EU. David Jones/PA Wire

Prominent East Anglian figures have traded verbal blows over Britain’s future in the European Union amid the launch of opposing campaigns.

Suffolk-based former Marks & Spencer boss Lord Rose, who has been a key figure in moves to redevelop Ipswich town centre, warned that a vote to leave the EU would be a “leap into the dark”, putting the country’s prosperity and security at risk at the launch of a campaign to keep Britain in the European Union.

The Tory peer and prominent businessman has been unveiled as chairman of the “in” campaign group just days after the Vote Leave group was launched with the backing of Essex MPs Bernard Jenkin, who is the chairman of the political planning committee of the group and UK Independence Party MP for Clacton Douglas Carswell.

But Mr Jenkin hit back at Lord Rose’s claims saying: “A vote to remain in is the leap in the dark, nobody knows how the EU will develop over the next five to 10 years. We already know there is going to be a massive consolidation of power in the Eurozone and at the moment there is no way of protecting the United Kingdom from that.”

He said he believed there was no sign at the moment that the renegotiation was going to take back control or secure control over “the things that really matter like trade, borders, the City of London and how much money we are forced to pay for the EU”.

He said that as part of the Vote Leave campaign he would be involved in making sure the voices of all the various political organisations were reflected in the campaign.

But two groups are competing to be designated by the Electoral Commission as the official ‘out’ campaign body.

Vote Leave launched with the backing of some of the biggest party donors in the country as well as prominent figures from the world of business and MPs across the political spectrum, while the rival umbrella group, Leave EU, is masterminded by wealthy Ukip backer Arron Banks.

The appointment of the widely-respected businessman Lord Rose to boss the in campaign appears designed to prevent the campaign becoming mired in party politics.

Whichever comes out on top will enjoy significant advantages including higher spending limits, campaign broadcasts, free mail shots and public funding of up to £600,000.

Lord Rose said people would make a “hard-headed, practical calculation” in the referendum - due by the end of 2017.

“I believe that Britain is stronger in Europe. The choice in the coming referendum is between remaining stronger, safer and better off inside Europe, or taking a leap into the unknown, risking our prosperity, threatening our safety, and diminishing our influence in the world,” he said.

“I believe the case for Britain to remain in the EU is clear. So I’m delighted to join the in campaign’s board as chair and I look forward to introducing the rest of the board at our campaign event on Monday.”

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