Ex-CBI boss blasts Brussels & calls for referendum

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When the Confederation of British Industry (the CBI) – the lobbying organisation for big business in Britain – announced this week that Britain is better off staying in the EU, the majority of Eurosceptics rolled their eyes at yet another example of scaremongering from the corporate allies of Brussels.

So it comes with a delicious serving of irony when Lord Jones of Birmingham – Digby Jones, who, by the way is the former Director-General of said CBI – blasts our continued membership of the EU. Writing in The Times he says: “This is Asia’s century and becoming globally competitive is a Herculean work in progress. What’s more, we belong to a European club that is holding us back”.

He emphasised this by saying: “The nature of our membership is intrinsically linked to our chances of making our economic recovery sustainable. We must not delay addressing it.” He continued: “We must not delay in addressing it. Although 530 million people have enjoyed 70 years of uninterrupted peace, the EU sets to fall at the first hurdle in the Global Competitive Stakes. The EU is simply not fit for purpose”!

Clearly everything he is saying supports our campaign objectives to Get Britain Out of the EU. He continues: “We need a referendum as soon as possible to end the uncertainty.” Exactly Get Britain Out’s campaign message.

Indeed, while it is easy for the CBI to attempt to scare us that there will be an ‘economic apocalypse’ if we leave the EU, they are supposed to represent ‘Big Business’, corporatism and large multinationals in Britain. The CBI clearly has an intrinsic interest in its membership¸ yet we do not know how much of their membership is British owned. Get Britain Out tried to look into the CBIs membership this week, but unfortunately we have been unable to uncover any details of how the CBI actually protects the pockets of the Great British Public rather than perhaps line the pockets of the overseas businesses interests of some of their membership!

A recent poll of more than 1,000 leaders of British businesses, commissioned by Business for Britain showed widespread concern about our continued membership of the EU – particularly among small and medium firms. Of particular concern is the on-going impact and associated red tape together with an increasing number of directives many of which detrimental to our home grown businesses. Clearly the CBI does not represent the majority of these businesses.

In his strongly-worded Times piece, Lord Jones enumerates the flaws of the EU, continuing: “The dead hand of EU-based employment regulation and state subsidies has been a job destroyer for years. Money which should be invested in education is instead sunk in the Common Agricultural Policy. He goes on to say: “For the good of every single person in the 28 member states of the EU, all this must change, and change quickly. Globalisation does not take prisoners. The alternative to continent-wide reform is permanently high unemployment, especially among the young. Leaving is not, as some pretend, such an unattractive option.

He says: “There is a lie put about that three million jobs depend on our continued membership.” “Not true” he counters. “There would be free trade agreements in place the day after our exit”. But while this may take a little time, he believes “We need a referendum as soon as possible”.

Some sections of big business and the media are busy trying to mislead the public that the EU is ‘great’ for business and a ‘necessity for growth’; Digby Jones’s words are warmly welcomed.

It is clear he is in touch with the opinion of the Great British Public and his former employers are not.

As he puts it: “We are faced with an unelected ruling elite in Brussels that still can’t balance its books, where the culture is one of marching valiantly towards 1970 and where criticism is condescendingly seen as heretical.”

If what he has to say sounds like endorsement for renegotiation of Britain’s membership of the EU, Digby Jones goes on to say: “If anyone, the CBI included, thinks that fundamental reform is on the EU agenda, they are deluding themselves”.

He blasts the Prime Minister’s stated plans for renegotiation as “insane” because the option to leave should be “on the negotiating table”. He asks: “When did anyone start negotiations with an opening gambit: It’s OK. We don’t mean it, we will do what you want anyway and I will campaign to stay in the EU whatever the outcome of negotiations”?

Get Britain Out, on behalf of the Great British Public, supports Digby Jones’ call for a referendum as soon as possible.

Alan Murad
Deputy Campaign Manager

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