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UKIP Listed Pro-EU Businesses On A Pro-Brexit Letter

UKIP sent out a list of US companies it says would push for a trade deal with the UK after Brexit. BuzzFeed News has found that many of the companies are pro-EU, while one has gone out of business.

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American businesses listed by UKIP as potential supporters of a post-Brexit international trade deal with the UK have distanced themselves from Nigel Farage's party, with many pointing out they are actually in favour of the EU.

UKIP sent out a press release on Tuesday entitled "The ABC of why Obama is wrong", listing 26 companies – one for each letter of the alphabet – that the party said would demand a US trade deal with the UK.

BuzzFeed News contacted all the businesses to ask whether they supported the UK leaving the EU and believed Britain could thrive outside the organisation. Of those who responded, none backed Brexit, while others pointed to statements in support of Britain's membership of the organisation.

Unfortunately, one of the businesses listed by UKIP as likely to lobby the US president for a post-Brexit trade deal – niche California-based computer game console manufacturer Zeebo – appears to no longer be in business. As a result it is unlikely to play a central role in pushing for a new global economic trade settlement.

UKIP MEP Mike Hookem argued his list of 26 companies destroyed the argument, put forward by US president Barack Obama, that the UK would be "at the back of the queue" for international trade deals if it voted to leave the EU on 23 June.

"The idea that the UK would be 'at the back of the queue' for trade is as likely as [David] Cameron selling up his Notting Hill mansion and moving into a council house in Denby," he said in a statement, suggesting that the high level of trade between the two countries would lead to instant pressure for a quick trade deal.

Hookem, a MEP for the Yorkshire & Humber region, went on to taunt the US president: "What was that about the 'back' of the queue, Mr Obama? I think you mean 'the front'."

None of the businesses that responded to requests from BuzzFeed News said they had any knowledge UKIP was going to put them on such a list, while a handful privately expressed confusion, bafflement, and amusement at UKIP's claim.

A spokesperson for Kraft Heinz said the food manufacturer had "never issued any such statement" relating to UKIP allowing its company name to used on such a statement.

The bank JP Morgan has repeatedly made clear it wants the UK to remain in the EU, while IBM has previously made it clear it supports the EU and backed a public letter in favour of the UK remaining in the organisation.

Chrysler's chief executive has described Brexit as "unhelpful", while Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has said the UK would be "worse off" out of the EU. Ford's European chief executive has also come out in support of Britain remaining within the EU.

"I can confirm we were not contacted by UKIP," said a spokesperson for Sysco when asked about the letter. "Frankly, we don't have a position on Brexit: that's up to voters to decide."

Some companies on the list, such as Google, have not stated a formal stance on Britain's membership of the EU, while HP Enterprises dismissed the press release as "rumour and speculation".

The White House's opinion of Mike Hookem's list remains unknown.

Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Jim Waterson at jim.waterson@buzzfeed.com.

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