Lord Stuart Rose has told Retail Week he believes common sense will prevail and Britons will vote to stay in the European Union.
However the former M&S boss, who is leading the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, urged retailers not to shy away from the issue.
Rose said he remained confident voters would opt to stay in despite high profile figures such as London mayor Boris Johnson backing the Vote Leave campaign, leading to the odds being shortened on a Brexit.
“Personally I’m confident, I’m a glass half-full man,” he said. “I believe that common sense will prevail.”
198 sign pro-EU letter
The in campaign has been boosted today by a letter from 198 business leaders – including the bosses of M&S, Asda, Dixons Carphone, and Kingfisher – putting the case for Britain to stay a part of Europe. An exit, they argued, would threaten jobs, deter investment in the UK and put the economy at risk.
Lord LordLoRose denied being disappointed by the grocers not publicly backing the in campaign.
“Retailers have a got big load, but they can’t ignore this one – it’s only 120 days away”
Lord Rose, Britain Stronger In Europe
“Each company has got to decide what it wants to get involved in,” he said. “But they have a duty to make sure their employees know the pros and cons in terms of investment, jobs and prices.”
And he warned retailers to address the issue. “Retailers have a got big load, but they can’t ignore this one – it’s only 120 days away,” said Rose.
In a direct appeal to retailers, he said: “I know you have business rates and the living wage to consider, but you also have the future investment potential and the future growth opportunity to your business.”
Rose also urged out campaigners to come clean on the impact of the UK leaving the EU. “I’d like opposing people to tell us what it will mean for jobs and prices,” he said.
He pointed out that 3 million jobs were associated with Britain being in Europe.
“We know if we came out overnight there would be new tariffs,” he said. “The out campaigners argue they will put new arrangements in place, but we don’t know how long it will take to put those in place.
“In the interim does that mean jobs and prices are affected? We believe it will.”
The referendum on Europe will take place on June 23.