Rolls-Royce has become the latest industry giant to back the Remain campaign, after urging its employees to vote to stay in the European Union at next week's referendum.

Warren East, the engineering giant's chief executive, warned that leaving the 28-country bloc would give Rolls-Royce's American rivals a head start in the market, adding a £65m ($92.1m, €82.2m) investment plan could be put at risk.

"It is like we are running a multi-lap race and with each lap we are giving the competitors a 10-yard head start," he said.

East stressed that GE and Pratt & Whitney, its main US-based competitors, would not suffer from a "pause" in investment, which he fears would instead weigh on UK firms following a Brexit.

"It's all about uncertainty and our position in Europe," he told Dominic O'Connell on BBC's Today Programme.

"We have a very interconnected operation around Europe [...] We're making investment decisions all the time about where to place various parts of our operation [...] and uncertainty created by Brexit puts a lot of those decisions on hold, and that pause is something that our US competitors don't have to cope with."

Britain's main engineering company, which accounts for £1 in every £50 of British exports, Rolls-Royce has a very strong relationship with Europe, where it employs 37,000 people – three quarters of its total workforce.

The group, which has significant presence in Derby, Germany, the US and Singapore, is in the middle of an expansion plan aimed at doubling the number of aero engines produced each year from the current 400.

Rolls-Royce's message comes only a few days after telecoms giant BT threw its weight behind the Remain campaign, indicating it wanted Britain to remain within a reformed EU.