• Grocery giants refuse to sign anti-Brexit letter
  • Bosses from 36 FTSE 100 companies have called for UK to remain in the EU
  • Marks & Spencer, Kingfisher and Dixons Carphone bosses among those campaigning against a Brexit
  • But Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons say decision is a “matter for the British people”

Supermarkets Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have refused to sign a letter from business leaders calling for the UK to remain in the EU.

Bosses at some of Britain’s biggest retailers, including Dixons Carphone chief executive Seb James and Kingfisher boss Veronique Laury, have put their names to a letter which claims a Brexit would deter investment in the UK - and Asda boss Andy Clarke is the only member of the UK’s big four supermarkets to sign it.

Chairmen or chief executives of 36 FTSE 100 companies are among the 198 signatories from British businesses who have called for the UK to stay in the Union.

Ocado founder Tim Steiner, Kurt Geiger boss Neil Clifford, Ann Summers chief executive Jacqueline Gold and Burberry duo Christopher Bailey and John Peace are among the other retailers to have penned the letter, while Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland and Walgreens Boots Alliance boss Stefano Pessina have both signed it in a personal capacity.

The signatories have joined the campaign to remain in the EU after Prime Minister David Cameron secured a commitment from the Union to “reduce the burden of regulation, deepen the single market and to sign-off crucial international trade deals.”

The letter, published in The Times this morning, goes on to declare: “Business needs unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs.

“Britain will be strong, safer and better off remaining a member of the EU.”

A Tesco spokesman said: “The referendum on EU membership is a decision for the people of Britain. Whatever that decision is, our focus will continue to be on serving customers. ”But despite receiving almost 200 signatures, the three listed companies within grocery’s big four have all refused to put their names to the letter and said the choice over whether to stay in the union is one for the British people.

A spokeswoman for Sainsbury’s added that the grocer was an “apolitical organisation” and insisted the vote was a “matter for the British people.”

But Walmart-owned Asda’s boss Clarke has nailed his colours to the mast and said voters should have the opportunity to hear “as many views as possible, including the voiceof businesses.”

He added: “As the country faces one of the most important decisions in its history, I felt that it was right to make our position as a company clear - Britain should remain within the EU.

“Complexity and uncertainty are bad for business. I believe that a single market is less complex than negotiating new trade deals with Europe and that leaving the EU would take Britain into the unknown at a delicate time for the global and domestic economy.

“I think that individuals should have the opportunity to hear as many views as possible, including the voice of businesses, in an open debate before reaching their own decision at the ballot box.”

Sainsbury’s and Morrisons only run their grocery businesses in the UK, but the country’s largest retailer Tesco also operates hundreds of supermarkets outside of Britain.

It is one of the largest grocers in Ireland alongside SuperValu and Dunnes Stores, while it also has stores in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Britain will go to the polls over its membership of the EU with an in-out referendum on June 23.

Cameron named the date following negotiations with the 27 EU member states over a new settlement.

The Prime Minister has insisted that his focus on expanding the single market would support jobs and growth in the future.

Cameron added that the UK would also be able to shelve plans for it to be part of an ever-closer union under the agreement he has reached with EU leaders.