A FOOD and drink boss has backed the Prime Minister's calls to stay in Europe if Sussex wine is to succeed.

Nick Mosley, the managing director of Brighton and Hove Food and Drink Festival, said it "sends out the wrong message" to leave the EU.

Writing exclusively for The Argus on Saturday, David Cameron praised Sussex winemakers such as Nyetimber in West Chiltington, Rathfinny in Polegate and Ridgeview in Ditchling Common but said they needed "barriers to trade to be minimal and tariffs to be nil" to compete with the world’s big names.

But others rubbished the Prime Minister's claims, saying Europe does not drink English wine anyway.

Stating the case to stay in the EU, Mr Mosley said: "At a time when we are really becoming a highly respected wine industry it doesn't seem to make any sense to leave. It sends the wrong message.

"We want to be recognised as a global producer looking outwards, not inwards."

Mr Mosley, who will be voting to stay in Europe, predicts that most wine producers will also vote to stay in.

He added: "There's no strong argument to leave. I can't see the business case for leaving.

"If we pull out of Europe we are going to have to renegotiate all of our trade deals, and that wouldn't be helpful for food and drink or tourism.

"We do so much in Europe and we have to think about the bigger picture."

Mr Cameron also said English winemakers have a market of 500 million people in Europe and warned we would be unable to shape industry rules if we left.

Winemaker David Carr Taylor, who has run Carr Taylor Wines of Westfield, near Hastings, since 1971, said Mr Cameron was talking "absolute rubbish".

Mr Carr Taylor said: "That's absolute rubbish, he hasn't a clue. They don't drink English wine in Europe. Europe does not import wine from across the world. That's where Europe is protectionist.

"Politically it's an interesting argument but I do think Britain is mature enough to run its own affairs."

Mr Carr Taylor said it would be beneficial to be out of Europe because winemaking rules were determined by Brussels, adding: "The sooner we get out of Europe and start making goods, the better. Let's have our freedom."

Commenting on his opponents from the Brexit camp in his opinion piece, Mr Cameron saidded: "All they’re offering is risk at a time of uncertainty – a leap in the dark. I say: that’s not good enough for the wine industry; and it’s not good enough for the people of Brighton and Sussex."

The EU referendum will be held on June 23.