A major Conservative party donor with big business interests is threatening to withdraw funding unless the Prime Minister bows to his demands for a so-called ‘soft Brexit’.
Sir Andrew Cook, the ‘Remain’-backing millionaire steel industry chairman has funnelled more than £1.2 million into the party, said he would stop supporting Theresa May’s party unless she kept the country inside the single market with open borders.
The industrialist, 67, donated to the party less than a year ago and his family wealth was estimated in 2015 to be £80 million. He also gave more that £300,000 to the ConservativesIN campaign and was rewarded with a knighthood in David Cameron’s resignation honours list.
He told The Times that the country would “sleepwalk to disaster” if it pulled out of the single-market membership to regain control European Union (EU) migration.
“The economic arguments of staying in the single market are overwhelming and I have yet to see any plausible alternative arguments being put forward to leaving the single market,” he said. “It seems to me the political tail is wagging the economic dog.
“There appears to be a willingness to consider the sacrifice of withdrawal from the single market, which I believe will be a catastrophe.”
He claimed that at least one of his factories was almost “entirely dependent” on access to the European market, adding:
“I would find it impossible under those circumstances [to keep donating to the Conservative Party should it back leaving the single market]… It is very difficult to make a political donation to a party when, although I support it ideologically, I do not believe that my interests and my ideology are ad idem with the principal Brexiteers.”
Other Tory donors are making similar calls. One key backer told The Times last night that he was experiencing “donor fatigue”, signalling that the prime minister risks losing significant support from the City and industry.
However, Lord Farmer, a former Conservative treasurer and Leave supporter, said that the financial sector would cope.
“Regarding the City, it is in quite a powerful position,” he said. “It has the expertise, the legal background, the infrastructure, the basic cabling throughout the Square Mile, Canary Wharf and Berkeley Square. Frankfurt at the moment does not even compete with Canary Wharf.”