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PM told to reject 'political' devolution

CBI president urges defence of ‘United Economic Kingdom’

Sir Mike RakeCBI president Sir Michael Rake will tonight urge Prime Minister David Cameron to reject devolution of more power in the UK on the grounds of “political expediency”.

Sir Mike will tell the 1,000 business leaders and politicians at the organisation’s annual dinner in London that it is important to maintain the UK’s single internal market.

“With the recent expected – but dramatic – result in Scotland, devolution is once again at the forefront of policy,” he will say.

“We welcome the Prime Minister’s emphasis on the UK being ‘one nation’. And now is a time for a period of calm reflection. If done in a careful and considered manner, devolution can be part of the solution – driving growth across the UK.

“But looking forward, any further devolution of power must be driven by economic evidence, not political expediency.

“Above all, we must protect the crown jewel of our ‘United economic Kingdom’ – our single internal market.

“Future growth across the country will rest on our ability to trade freely across the United Kingdom, without additional cost or complexity.”

Sir Mike Rake will urge business leaders to speak out in favour of Britain remaining part of a reformed European Union.

He will  say: “Business has increasingly spoken out on this crucial issue and the time has come to turn up the volume. Speaking out clearly and in a language which people can understand.

“In the months to come, our country will have to make its own choice. A choice between openness and isolation. Between shaping the future or retreating into the past.

“The question is not whether the UK would survive outside the EU, but whether it would thrive. No-one has yet set out a credible alternative future to EU membership. The current alternatives are not realistic options – little or no influence and the obligation to comply with EU principles whilst still paying most of the costs.

“Business must be crystal clear that membership is in our national interest. The EU is key to our national prosperity. Letting us set the trade agenda, be part of the biggest free trade deal ever negotiated – TTIP – and be able to properly compete with global giants like China and India.”

While acknowledging public concerns around immigration, Sir Mike will point out that “skilled migration” is part of the solution.

“We need to keep up-skilling our population at home and attract the best and brightest European and global talent. Many businesses – and our National Health Service – could not operate without skilled migration.”

He will acknowledge that the EU is “far from perfect”, arguing that regulating on so-called “life-style issues” should be left to member states and that “poorly thought-out legislation – especially on employment law – can be a real headache for business.”

Sir Mike will credit the achievements of the coalition in tackling the deficit and pursuing pro-enterprise policies. He will welcome the certainty that came with the Tories securing a majority.

He will say: “The election may be over, but risks remain – at home and abroad. Our fiscal deficit is still the highest of any major EU country. And on the global stage, headwinds persist. From structural challenges in the Eurozone, to Greece’s on-going debt issues and conflict in the Ukraine.

“With our political future more certain and our economic outlook more positive – now is the time to tackle remaining challenges to growth.”

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