The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) came under fire from Tory eurosceptics yesterday over its pro-European stance.
In a speech hosted by eurosceptic group Business for Britain, former minister Owen Paterson said that the CBI did not represent small and medium-sized companies and acted instead for its own interests. The group has recently upped its rhetoric on the importance of the UK staying part of the European Union.
“Self-selecting surveys of CBI members may suggest enthusiasm for the Brussels system,” he said, “but when firms are objectively polled by outside professional pollsters, a very different picture emerges. It will, I suspect, be some time before the establishment comes to understand that the CBI leadership and British business are two very different things,” Paterson told an audience yesterday.
He was joined in his criticism of the membership organisation, which represents 190,000 businesses, by fellow Conservative MP Dominic Raab, who told City A.M.: “It is certainly true to say that the CBI has allowed itself to become a stooge for the unblinking, unthinking, pro-EU view put up by the elite. This is not reflective of small business in this country.”
Paterson, a former minister in David Cameron’s government, was highly critical of the UK’s relationship with Europe and made the case for independence in order to become a stronger economic state.
Commenting on the speech, a CBI spokesperson said: “Most CBI members believe the UK is best placed to create jobs and growth as part of a reformed European Union.
“While the EU isn’t perfect, the UK does have influence as a full member and no other alternative offers to British firms what membership of the EU can. All other options leave us on the outside with little influence, following the same rules to be allowed to trade inside the EU, but with little say in what those rules are.”