Business leaders heard why their counterparts and local politicians believe leaving the EU would be a blow for Teesside as the debate heats up ahead of the EU Referendum on June 23.
Nearly 60 representatives of Teesside businesses and charities attended an early morning breakfast meeting to hear the views of businessmen Ian Stark and Andy Preston, together with Jessie Joe Jacobs, North East field director of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign.
Stark, chief executive officer of Middlesbrough-based Chemoxy International, said: “I firmly believe Teesside businesses of all sizes are much stronger in Europe.
“My company exports £20 million of goods per year to the EU. Leaving the EU would put this at risk, with the uncertainty of trade agreements that could take years to agree?
“The North East benefits tremendously from foreign direct investment such as international car manufacturers. We provide a gateway to Europe for these companies.
“Would foreign companies still invest in the UK at the same rate as they do now if we left the EU? I doubt it. My feeling is that there are plenty of other EU countries that would attract this investment instead.”
The meeting was hosted by businessman and charity leader Preston, the campaign’s business ambassador for the Tees region, who said: “For once, business owners, trade unions and most politicians are united on this issue.
“They all agree that, all things considered, Teesside and the whole of Britain is better off as part of the EU.
“I have friends on both sides of the argument and I’m not falling out with anyone but, personally, I think that leaving the EU at this time would be bad news for Teesside – for the reasons of prosperity, security and certainty.”
Jessie Jacobs said: “The number of small businesses wanting to stay in the EU shows that this is not a big business debate, this is an everybody debate.
“The people campaigning to stay are community groups, charities, young people, students, teachers, nurses and small, medium and large size businesses. We all benefit from the investment, jobs and security that the EU provides and it’s vital to our small businesses that we vote to Remain on June 23.”
• Pictured (above): Andy Preston, Jessie Jacobs and Ian Stark at the EU business breakfast meeting.