Sajid Javid vents frustration at CBI’s pro-European stance

Business Secretary calls on business body to stop pre-empting membership negotiations

David Cameron’s new business secretary, Sajid Javid, is frustrated with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)’s pro-European stance and has said it could colour a renegotiation package for Britain.

In recent months the influential business body has called on businesses to support Britain’s membership of the EU. But Javid said that anticipating the outcome of the prime minister’s negotiations on Britain’s membership “doesn’t work”, the FT reports.

“I’ve heard that the CBI thinks the UK should remain in the European Union no matter what,” Javid said. “Does it really make sense to say, so early in the process, that ‘the rules of this club need to change, but don’t worry — we’ll always be members no matter what?’

“You know how negotiation works. You wouldn’t sit down at the start of a merger or acquisition and like a poker player showing his hand to the table, announce exactly what terms you were prepared to accept. It doesn’t work like that in the boardroom and it won’t work like that in the Brussels.”

Javid is regarded as a Eurosceptic himself, having previously said that leaving the EU “isn’t something we should be afraid of”.

CBI response

Speaking to LondonLovesBusiness.com, a CBI spokesman said that EU membership provides “access to 500 million consumers and helps set the global trade agenda”, but added that reforms are needed.

He said: “The CBI backs the prime minister’s agenda for a more competitive EU and believes ambitious but achievable reforms can be secured, with some progress already made in recent months on a digital single market and business regulation. 

“We have engaged with senior business and political figures across Europe in recent years and it’s clear we have allies in Europe to deliver more jobs and growth.

“Most CBI members are clear that the EU gives us access to 500 million consumers and helps set the global trade agenda. But reform must be an ongoing process and we support the government’s push for Brussels to focus on the big ticket issues, like signing more trade deals and doing less where it doesn’t add value.”

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