AN INDUSTRY leader is urging businesses to “speak out early” in favour of remaining in a reformed European Union.
CBI president Sir Mike Rake will argue that “the time is ripe” for reforming the EU as the new Conservative government presses ahead with its promised in-out referendum.
He will tell the business group’s annual dinner in London tonight that the time had come for business to “turn up the volume” on the issue, in a language 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,” he will say.
“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.
“Reform will not happen overnight, but by working with our allies on an ambitious, yet achievable, agenda, we can make it a reality.
“So we support the Prime Minister’s drive for a more competitive EU, and the new government can count on business’s support to make this happen.
“Already, we are seeing a growing consensus, from government, business and Europe’s leaders. We have seen some encouraging signs of progress from the European Commission.”
Rake, chairman of BT, will tell the 1,000 businessmen and women, and politicians, that the regulatory environment in the UK was going “above and beyond” other countries, leading to “unmistakable signs” of activity being diverted.
“We need to retain major global institutions based in London – key to our reputation as a global hub and to our world-beating legal, accounting and other professional services.”
Rake will call for efforts to tackle the UK’s poor productivity by investing in skills and education.
He will add that following the election result in Scotland, devolution can be “part of the solution”, driving growth across the country.