The CBI privately suggested to David Cameron that he should not overplay the government’s hand in EU negotiations, revealed leaked minutes of an internal meeting. This sparked claims that the business organisation wants the country to stay in the union irrespective of whether any reform is carried out
The Vote Leave campaign, which published the minutes, demanded the organisation be more open about its stance on EU after the leaked minutes implied the government should set softer goals in negotiations.
The minutes include excerpts such as: “Highlighted that it is important not to overplay our hand in the negotiations with Brussels, like Greece and that CBI should be strong in making the case for competitiveness within Europe, as a key point in our reform agenda.”
The minutes also note that Sir Mike Rake, who stood down as the CBI president in July, encouraged his successor, Paul Drechsler, to push to keep Britain in the EU.
“Finally SMR [Sir Mike Rake] wished PD [Paul Drechsler] well as president designate for the next two important years for business. He urged Paul to use CBI’s influence to keep us in and ultimately to make the EU a better place to do business.”
Alan Halsall, a supporter of the Vote Leave anti-EU campaign, said: “The CBI says one thing in public and another in private. It claims that it has been ‘banging the drum’ for reform in the EU but privately it warns ministers not to ‘overplay their hand’ in the negotiations … The CBI should do the decent thing and drop its plans for a pro-EU campaign. If it does not it will be misrepresenting its members and the wider business community.”