John Allan

Tesco chairman John Allan has attacked David Cameron’s plans for a European referendum, saying the idea had spread damaging uncertainty for businesses.

In an interview with the Independent on Sunday, Allan also warned that major businesses could move their headquarters out of London if Britain quit the EU.

“It’s a question of weighing up the pluses and minuses,” the new Tesco chair said. “This issue of the EU referendum and the uncertainty that it creates and the possibility that it could lead to Britain leaving the EU is a particularly heavy kind of pebble to put in the scales.”

He said having an in-out referendum before knowing what powers could be clawed back from Brussels meant “the cart is very firmly before the horse”.

Allan added that big companies could move their head offices from London to other sites in Europe “relatively painlessly”, should Britain exit the EU.

“London has more regional and global headquarters than any city in the world and some of those headquarters could actually be moved relatively painlessly to places within the EU,” he said. “You can’t move factories easily, but you can move head offices.”