A new cross-party campaign for Britain to quit the EU in the referendum due by the end of 2017 has been launched, with millionaire donors to the Conservatives, Labour and Ukip named as its treasurers.
Former Tory treasurer and banker Peter Cruddas, Labour donor and mail-order millionaire John Mills and spread betting tycoon Stuart Wheeler, who was a major donor to the Conservatives before becoming Ukip treasurer, are expected to give significant financial backing to the Vote Leave campaign. The group also counts former environment secretary Owen Paterson among MPs from across Parliament backing its campaign.
JML founder Mr Mills said: "If we vote to leave the EU we will be able to trade freely with the EU and have friendly co-operation. The UK will regain legal control of things like trade, tax, economic regulation and energy. We will be able to vote for people who will be able to make our own trade deals and control our own public services. I would urge everyone to get behind the Vote Leave campaign and make the case for Britain outside the EU."
Vote Leave has also signed up MPs from the Conservatives, Labour and Ukip, as well as prominent business people including another ex-Tory treasurer, the former Dixons chairman Lord Kalms, and former Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson. Other prominent supporters include author Frederick Forsyth, Green Party peer Baroness (Jenny) Jones, historian Andrew Roberts and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lord Trimble.
The group released details of a poll suggesting that 44% of UK voters would choose to remain a member of the EU if the referendum was held now, compared to 39% who would vote to leave. But when asked how they would vote if Prime Minister David Cameron fails to secure a deal to end the supremacy of EU law in the UK from his current renogatation, the numbers ready to back withdrawal rose to 43%, against 38% who would still want to stay in, found the survey of almost 2,000 people by pollsters ICM.
When asked how they view the EU, some 32% said they strongly supported the European Union project and were almost sure to vote to stay. Some 34% said that the European Union was bad for Britain and Europe and they were almost sure to vote to leave (34%), while 20% said they would like to leave the EU but were worried about the effect on jobs and living standards so may vote to stay.
Vote Leave is being supported by campaign groups Business for Britain, Labour Leave and Conservatives for Britain (CfB), and will to seek designation from the Electoral Commission as the official voice of the "Out" campaign.
Co-chairman of the Labour Leave campaign Kate Hoey said: "We must end the supremacy of EU law over UK law. If we vote to leave, then the £350 million we send to Brussels every week can be spent on our priorities like the NHS. I want to see a campaign which brings together those from all parts of the UK who want to take back control of our countries' laws to the British parliament."
CfB co-chairman and Conservative MP Steve Baker said: "Conservatives for Britain supports the Prime Minister's attempt to negotiate a fundamentally different relationship with the EU. But we also support the creation of a professional cross-party campaign that can fight the referendum if the EU does not give the PM fundamental change.
"Such a campaign cannot be built in a few weeks. Work must start now. I personally support the Vote Leave campaign. I will be voting to leave unless, at the very least, the Prime Minister secures the end of the supremacy of EU law."
Douglas Carswell, Ukip's only MP, said: "I will vote to leave so that we can end the supremacy of EU law and the British public can take back control. That is the safer choice - safer for our democracy and our economy. I look forward to building a campaign that has no interest in party loyalties and is focused on what is best for Britain and our friends in Europe."
Other business backers of Vote Leave include entrepreneur John Caudwell, Reebok founder Joe Foster, Michael Freeman of the Argent Group Foyles & Noved chairman Christopher Foyle, Numis Securities CEO Oliver Hemsley, C Hoare & Co managing partner Alexander Hoare and Crispin Odey, the founding partner of Odey Asset Management.
Vote Leave will also be supported by a Business Board, made up of the current members of Business for Britain's board. And a cross-party Parliamentary Planning Committee includes Mr Baker, Ms Hoey, Mr Carswell, Labour MPs Kelvin Hopkins and Graham Stringer and senior Conservative backbenchers Bernard Jenkin and Mr Paterson.
The separate Ukip-backed campaign group Leave.EU welcomed the launch of the Vote Leave organisation.
Leave.EU co-chairman Richard Tice said; "We look forward to supporting their push to persuade business across the UK to support an EU exit. The team at B4B have already provided a powerful argument to business groups and we will make sure we encourage them, as we have with all 'Out' groups from across the political spectrum, to help achieve our collective aim, a vote to leave at the EU referendum".
:: ICM polled 1,947 people online on the evening of October 7, following Mr Cameron's keynote speech to the Conservative annual conference in Manchester.