Business leaders back Cameron on 'new relationship' with EU

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Fifty-six senior business figures have voiced their support for David Cameron's proposed EU reforms, saying they are Britain's "best chance of success."

The chorus of approval, which appeared in a letter to The Times on Thursday, encouraged the Prime Minister to "push for a more flexible, competitive EU that would bring jobs and growth for all member states."

The signatories - including Sir Stuart Rose, incoming chairman of Ocado, Xavier Rolet, chief executive of the London Stock Exchange (LSE: LSE.L - news) and Mick Davis, chief executive of Xstrata - also urged Mr Cameron to strengthen the single market while "quashing the culture of red tape".

Their message stands in stark contrast to that voiced by another cohort of business figures - including the heads of BT (LSE: BT-A.L - news) and Virgin - in an open letter to the Telegraph last week. They warned the Prime Minister his plans to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU were doomed , and could "create damaging uncertainty", putting off investment in the UK.

In Wednesday’s speech, which was hastily rearranged after being cancelled in Amsterdam last week, Mr Cameron said that “nothing should be off the table”. He called himself a “heretic” for challenging the apparent consensus over the EU and promised an in-out referendum if his party was re-elected in the next general election.

Mr Cameron promised to personally campaign for Britain to stay in the EU after renegotiating a better deal and clawing back some powers from Brussels. “It does not seem to me that the steps which would be needed to make Britain — and others — more comfortable in their relationship in the European Union are inherently so outlandish or unreasonable,” he said.

His oration drew a mixed response from EU leaders.

While many politicians poured scorn over the speech, with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius offering to "roll out the red carpet" for Britain's EU exit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted at her willingness to negotiate the UK's relationship with Europe.