CBI ready to change position on Maastricht

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The Independent Online
THE CONFEDERATION of British Industry is preparing to adopt a more cautious stance on the Maastricht treaty in anticipation of a possible 'no' vote in Sunday's French referendum, writes Michael Harrison.

A strong hint of a shift in approach came yesterday when Sir Brian Corby, deputy president of the organisation, said: 'The politicians have tried to build a bridge too far without bringing their electorates with them.'

Sir Michael Angus, CBI president, is today expected to seek a mandate for a fresh stance on Europe when the organisation's governing council meets in London.

There appears to be growing concern in business circles over the public backlash against the perceived centralisation of power in the European Commission.

In a speech to a CBI dinner in Glasgow last week Sir Michael said: 'There is a great worry that the bureaucrats in Brussels are becoming too powerful and are in too much of a hurry.'

CBI leaders stressed yesterday that it remained important for the Maastricht treaty to be ratified. However, if this did not happen it should not affect the completion of the single market.

Business would also remain committed to the objective of a single currency and an independent European central bank, though these measures would take longer to achieve.

European business leaders met John Major yesterday to discuss action needed to stimulate economic recovery. The delegation urged the Prime Minister to use Britain's presidency of the EC to push for completion of the single market and a successful outcome to the stalled Gatt world trade talks. They did not, however, press for concerted action to cut European interest rates.