Entrepreneur Charlie Mullins, who earlier this week quit the Business For Britain/Vote Leave Take Control campaign was originally enticed into joining because of a promise to campaign against the top rate of tax, rather than the debate surrounding European Union membership, a spokesman for the millionaire has told Breitbart London.
Mr. Mullins made headlines this week when he quit Business for Britain, which has merged with other groups created by Westminster campaigner Matthew Elliott to form ‘Vote Leave Take Control’, a group backed by a number of MPs and Westminster insiders. All the involved groups were set up by Mr. Elliott, formerly of The Tax Payers’ Alliance (TPA), raising questions as to whether the TPA’s long-standing campaign against the 50p top rate of tax was used to lure people into Business for Britain under false pretences.
The Vote Leave campaign strenuously denies this claim, stating: “the 50p campaign had nothing to do with Business for Britain”. They pointed to a campaign run by Westbourne Communications, run out of the same offices as the Tax Payers’ Alliance and Business for Britain – at 55 Tufton Street – at the time.
A spokesman for Business for Britain said that the organisation always had a “clear focus on EU reform” and suggested “there may be some confusion [on Mr. Mullins’s part]”.
A spokesman for Mr. Mullins told Breitbart London: “Charlie joined Business for Britain to support its campaign to scrap the 50p top rate of tax. However, Charlie does not support the organisation’s change of stance over Europe as he believes the UK should remain in the EU.”
Business for Britain had previously claimed to be neutral on the question, even though they claimed on their website: “Business for Britain is absolutely not about leaving the EU”. That position was notionally scrapped with the launch of Vote Leave Take Control, though the campaign’s spokesmen continue to distance themselves from an absolute “out” position.
Following the launch, Mr. Mullins, a millionaire plumbing magnate said: “I find myself unable to support Business For Britain due to a direct conflict with my core belief that the UK is, on balance, better off inside Europe than out.”
During the course of his resignation he made it clear that he has always believed that Britain would be better off remaining within the Union, albeit under renegotiated terms. Speaking to LBC Radio, he said that he had “never had any doubts at all” that Britain should remain in, saying “we need the EU.”
But his stance raises questions as to why he would join the group in the first place. Although Business for Britain was not about leaving the EU until last week, it has long been understood within Westminster circles that Mr. Elliott harboured ambitions to lead the official ‘Leave’ campaign, a fact that Mr. Mullins appears to have been unaware of.
Last year Mr. Mullins was one of a number of business leaders who hit out at the former Labour leader Ed Miliband’s plans to raise the top rate of tax to 50p, co-signing a letter condemning the policy. His fellow signatories included Sir Stuart Rose and Karren Brady, both of whom Mr. Mullins has now joined forces with the official ‘Britain Stronger In Europe’ (BSE) campaign on the EU question.
The spokesman for Mr. Mullins said that they felt that Business for Britain had jumped the gun in declaring for the out campaign.
The terms of Mr. Mullins’s involvement with Business for Britain will only serve as further embarrassment for Mr. Elliott, who claims to have the more organised Leave campaign of the two front runners. Both his campaign and Leave.EU, backed by UKIP supporter Arron Banks, are vying to be named the official ‘Leave’ campaign by the Electoral Commission.
This morning, the Vote Leave campaign hosted a “very lonely” protest outside the European Parliament, perhaps proving the threadbare nature of their campaign. Breitbart London sources tell us that the “stunt” was attended by four people and a poster.
— Sofia Bettiza (@SofiaBettiza) October 15, 2015
To date Mr. Banks has had no major embarrassments, attracting over 200,000 members of the public to his campaign. Mr. Elliott has attracted a handful of Members of Parliament and millionaires.