One of the main campaigns attempting to get Britain out of the EU is planning to ambush the annual general meetings of dozens of blue-chip firms. Vote Leave has compiled a secret list of at least 24 companies – including major players like BAE Systems, BP, Centrica and GlaxoSmithKline – which are having their AGMs between now and the referendum on 23 June.
Sky News has obtained this list and claims the group is planning to buy single shares in each of them to allow activists to gain access to the meetings, who will then put questions to members of the board.
It also plans to stage demonstrations outside the venues of other firms' meetings, in much the way it managed at the CBI's autumn conference last year, when two men sprang up and unfurled a banner from the audience, claiming that the business lobby was the "voice of Brussels".
The goal is to target companies and executives who have gone on record in support of remaining in the EU. Chief executives have been enthusiastically signing letters for and against leaving Europe for a while now, with BP adding its name to a pro-EU open letter published in the Times in February. Accordingly the first AGM on Vote Leave's hitlist is BP, which will take place on Thursday in east London.
Other companies allegedly on the Vote Leave list seen by Sky are, in order of their 2016 AGMs: Centrica, Unilever, Meggitt, Hammerson, London Stock Exchange Group, Weir Group, Ultra Electronics, AstraZeneca, Pearson, BAE Systems, Standard Chartered, Ocado, Virgin Money, Carillion, Aviva, GKN, GlaxoSmithKline, RSA Insurance, National Express, Serco, Petrofac, Royal Dutch Shell and Rexam.
One FTSE-100 chairman told Sky News that he would welcome Vote Leave's presence at his company's AGM. He said: "We are not afraid to debate with them. Bring it on."
Vote Leave declined to comment.
Vote Leave is one of two rivals vying to be nominated to lead the official out campaign, alongside Leave.EU. A decision on which organisation will become the official campaign group will be made next week by the UK's Electoral Commission.