Most businesses ‘want the UK to be in a reformed EU’, according to the Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
Carolyn Fairburn claimed that ‘the majority’ of CBI members wanted to stay in the European Union, so long as Britain was able to negotiate certain changes. She was responding to a speech made by Prime Minister David Cameron at the World Economic Forum at Davos, in which he urged business leaders to publicly support the UK staying in a reformed EU.
In his speech, Mr Cameron argued that Britain was ‘drifting away’ from the EU, which was increasingly unpopular with the British public, but that he wanted to ‘secure the future of Britain in a reformed EU’ by gaining ‘full and democratic support’ for membership.
His message for business leaders was that there was no need to wait until he had negotiated a reform deal, but they could already be ‘explaining’ issues to the public and ‘setting the context’ for the referendum campaign.
In her response, Ms Fairburn said: ‘Business leaders, on whatever side of the debate, should feel able to speak out on the implications for their business of staying in or leaving the EU. No-one is better placed to explain what this vital decision means for jobs, growth and investment in the years ahead.
‘The majority of CBI members want the UK to be in a reformed EU – changing it for the better, not just for the UK but for all Member States. We support the Prime Minister’s ambitions to create a more competitive, outward-looking EU.
‘But there are several areas where the EU needs to raise its game. Businesses want to see more trade deals, completion of the single market and less red tape.’
There is increasing speculation that a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU could take place in June, and the In and Out campaigns are beginning to take shape. This week investment bank Goldman Sachs reportedly made a ‘six figure’ donation to Britain Stronger In Europe, a cross-party group leading the In campaign, while Labour MPs launched their own Out campaign, called Labour Leave.