Between 30 and 40 Conservatives signed a letter demanding that May take Britain all the way out of the European Union in March 2019 without a transition period, saying the country must be allowed to sign free trade deals and stop paying money to Brussels.
A spokesman said: “If you look at the investment that continues to take place in the United Kingdom economy since Brexit it is clear there is business confidence, significant investment from overseas and at home we continue to have record levels of employment”.
The identity of the officials responsible for circulating the draft letter was unclear on Wednesday, or whether Mrs May was aware of the plan to release it.
Downing Street said it did not comment on leaked letters.
According to six sources familiar with the situation, Prime Minister Theresa May’s office has asked companies listed on the blue-chip FTSE 100 index to put their name to a public letter welcoming the government’s efforts to make Brexit a success.
The second source said they had “no appetite to sign”.
According to BBC business editor Simon Jack, a letter has been sent to leaders of major United Kingdom businesses to support Downing Street’s strategy.
The letter’s text says that signatories include supporters of both the Leave and Remain camps in last year’s referendum.
“This month the government’s Repeal Bill will initiate a program of legislation that will make Britain ready for life outside the EU“.
It also says the signatories welcome the government’s commitment to negotiating an interim period after the formal exit date and would bring their expertise in worldwide trade to bear on the government efforts to create future relationships outside the EU.
“And as the United Kingdom makes progress towards establishing stronger trading links with markets like the US, India, Japan and Mexico, British businesses who know these markets well should stand ready to use their expertise and networks to cement future relationships”.
The broadcaster said some of the recipients had “expressed incredulity” over the move, with one FTSE-100 executive saying: “There is no way we could sign this given the current state of chaos surrounding the talks”.
Contact between ministers and the private sector has been intensified since June’s general election, with regular meetings now scheduled between various groups involving Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, and Greg Clark, Business Secretary.
News of the letter came on the same day that many business groups expressed grave concerns over leaked draft government proposals to clamp down on United Kingdom companies’ ability to recruit workers from the EU.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “What we are working hard on is making sure we deliver the smoothest possible Brexit that delivers certainty for business and we get a trade deal that works for Britain and the European Union, and we are confident of doing so”.