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Business urged to make voices heard

CBI backs Cameron on EU with nod to dissenters

Carolyn FairbairnCBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn has again acknowledged that its members are divided on the EU debate, but said most support Britain remaining a member of a reformed trading group.

Responded to a speech by the Prime Minister in Davos calling on businesses to speak out ahead of the EU referendum, Ms Fairbairn 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.”

Ms Fairbairn was plunged into controversy soon after taking up the role when the CBI was criticised during last year’s annual conference for appearing not to acknowledge those members who want Britain to pull out of the EU.

Ms Fairbairn said at the time that over the last three years, it had held more than 130 consultation events with members across the country. She said those members the CBI listened to and respected the views of those who took “a different view”.

Mr Cameron urged business leaders to stay in a reformed European Union, during a speech at the World Economic Forum.

He called on businesses to join him and “make their voices heard”.

“If you agree with me about the changes I am arguing for in Europe. If you want a more competitive Europe, where the single market is completed, where there are more trade deals and fewer regulations, join me in making that case.

“And if you believe like I do that Britain is better off in a reformed European Union then when the time comes, help me make that case for Britain to stay.”

David Cameron annual confA referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU is due to take place before the end of 2017, but the exact time will depend when Mr Cameron finishes his renegotiation.

He will set out why it would benefit businesses to stay in the EU. “When I look at Europe I see enormous potential. Five hundred million people – the largest single market on the planet. And a quarter of the world’s economy. With strengths like this Europe should be the most dynamic, competitive place on Earth. But all too often it falls short.

“I want us to complete the single market. Tearing down the barriers to trade and enterprise between 28 different countries will massively benefit British businesses. Since the establishment of the single market, inward investment has increased faster in both the UK and EU – than the US and the rest of the world. But in too many areas the single market remains incomplete.”

Chris Cummings, chief executive of TheCityUK, said: “Evidence TheCityUK has bought to the reform debate clearly shows that continued membership of a reformed EU will bolster the City’s – and the UK’s – long-term competitiveness.

 “As the Prime Minister highlighted today, reform of the EU should benefit all 28 member states – and the UK is not alone in calling for it.

“We welcome the Prime Minister’s call for business to play our part. We know from our own research that the public would find it helpful to hear from business leaders on this issue. Our role is not to tell people how to vote, but to present the facts about the consequences of the various referendum outcomes and help them reach an informed decision when they cast their vote.

“Reform that focuses on completing the Single Market in services, digital and energy will benefit all Europe’s citizens and improve the lives of everyone in the UK.

“We look forward to the seeing the outcome of the Prime Minister’s negotiations and having clarity around the timing of a referendum. Continued uncertainty is bad for business and investor decision-making.”

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