However, there was a slightly more favourable response to Mr Cameron’s speech from other quarters
Damian Waters, North West director of employers’ organisation, the CBI, said: “The EU single market is fundamental to Britain’s future economic success, but the closer union of the eurozone is not for us.
“The Prime Minister rightly recognises the benefits of retaining membership of what must be a reformed EU and the CBI will work closely with government to get the best deal for Britain.”
John Hall, chief executive of Professional Liverpool, said although most businesses would want to remain in the EU, the amount of interference from Europe was “annoying and frustrating”.
“This has been one of the few statesman-like speeches I have heard on the issue for some time and I think he has captured the mood of the country,” said Mr Hall.
“However, I think many businesses do want us to renegotiate our relationship with Europe because the general feeling is that there is too much interference.”
Jenny Stewart, chief operating officer at Liverpool Chamber of Commerce agreed that most businesses would want to stay in the EU but “not at any cost”.
“I think Liverpool businesses want the single market but they also want us to renegotiate our relationship with the EU,” she said. “I also think the timetable will create uncertainty and we really need something done during this parliament.”
Derek Gawne, branch manager of the Liverpool office of stockbroker Charles Stanley, said the City of London was “finely balanced” on the issue with concerns over financial transaction taxes offset by a “possible slide in business investment plans caused by potential uncertainty”.
He added: “Although not until the second half of the next parliament, a referendum could further weaken the pound, providing a potential boost to exporters but raising domestic inflation expectations too.”
Predictably, the views of North West Conservative and Labour Members of the European Parliament were in line with their respective party policies.
Tory MEP Sajjad Karim said: “The EU has many shortcomings and David Cameron has given the whole continent an opportunity to reform and build a better institution. It is bold and courageous and long overdue.
“I and my colleagues will work tirelessly with the Prime Minister to get a much better deal for Britain and the North West.”
And Labour MEP, Arlene McCarthy, added: “Cameron's speech was not about advancing Britain’s interests in Europe or speaking to the nation. Cameron has only succeeded in kicking the referendum into the long grass for four more years.
“Companies wanting to invest in the North West are none the wiser after this non-speech. On the contrary, the uncertainty of this Government’s commitment to Europe and our economic future persists.”