The Business Secretary let the CBI have it at the Corinthia last night, telling them to their faces that their pro-EU intransigence doesn’t “make sense”:
“Imagine my surprise last month, when I attended an event much like this one and heard that the CBI thinks the UK should remain in the European Union no matter what. That the people of Britain should vote to stay in regardless of whether or not the Prime Minister wins the concessions that British business so badly needs. That none of the concerns the CBI has raised over the years are actually that significant.
Of course you’re entirely free to come to that conclusion. But does it really make sense to say, so early in the process: … “the rules of this club need to change… but don’t worry, we’ll always be members no matter what happens”?
You’re some of Britain’s most respected, most successful business leaders. You know how negotiation works. You wouldn’t dream of 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 in the boardroom and it won’t work in Brussels.”
Before turning their own words against them:
“You have never been shy about highlighting the ways in which the EU can hamper and undermine British business. Here’s three quotes:
“The likely effect of many of Brussels’ current proposals will be to damage the UK’s prospects for growth.” That was John [Cridland], speaking in 2011.
“We don’t want a situation where smaller firms are saddled with poorly thought-out EU regulations which impede their ability to grow.” So said Katja [Hall] in 2013.
“The European Parliament’s decision … is bad for business … it will make it harder for firms to grow and export across Europe.” That was Sean McGuire, your man in Brussels, in a statement made four years ago.
These are all valid complaints, all concerns I share. They’re exactly the kind of points the CBI should be making to defend the interests of its members.”
Praising the CBI’s rivals while being hosted by John Cridland will have gone down like a cup of cold sick:
“Look at the stance taken by the Institute of Directors and the British Chambers of Commerce. Like the CBI, the IoD and BCC are great cheerleaders British business. Like the CBI, they want the renegotiation process to deliver genuine reform. But unlike the CBI, they’re waiting until that process is complete before recommending how to vote in the referendum.”
Finishing with a warning that Brexit shouldn’t be ruled out:
“We must speak with one voice. And we must be unafraid to say that we could walk away if Brussels refuses to compromise.”
Bravo for giving the CBI a deserved slap, but you can’t help reading this and thinking much of it could apply to the PM…