Is the business secretary right to criticise the CBI for backing EU membership even without reform?

Mark Wallace is executive editor of ConservativeHome, says Yes

I doubt that any of the CBI’s members would ever go into a contract negotiation in the way that the organisation has approached the EU renegotiation. If your opening message is that you will sign on the dotted line regardless of the quality of the offer, then you are about to get ripped off. Such unconditional love for Brussels is ill-judged and unwise. Officially, the CBI says that it wants EU reform, but its whole stance suggests that it is putting ideology ahead of practicality. Business wants less costly red tape, fewer barriers to trade and less meddling from eurocrats who don’t understand enterprise. It is bizarre that the CBI, which claims to speak for them, is trying to undermine an attempt to secure such changes. It isn’t just businesses who the institution risks angering with this misguided approach. Voters want a renegotiation and an in/out referendum. The people deserve a say – regardless of what some inhabitants of ivory towers might think.

Chris Rumfitt is chief executive of Corporate Reputation Consulting, says No

So business secretary Sajid Javid doesn’t think that the CBI should make plain the overwhelming view of the business community on the EU issue? He clearly doesn’t understand the role of a business lobby group – or any lobby group – in a democracy. The CBI has learnt the lessons of the Scottish referendum, when the voice of business spoke out far too late and as a result looked panicked and self-interested when it did. This time round, it is speaking loud, clear and early – leaving the EU would be disastrous for business. While Javid has a point that smaller businesses also need their say, that can happen through other groups like the Federation of Small Businesses, which has already described itself as “relaxed” about Brexit. The reality is this is one of the most important decisions the UK has faced in decades. Over the next two years everyone will make their voice heard. And a good thing that is too.

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