Industry chiefs savage Government 'fog over Europe'

Britain's business leaders turned on the Government yesterday, warning that its policy of non-co-operation over the beef ban would prove harmful and disruptive unless it was ended quickly.

The warning from the Confederation of British Industry coincided with a strong attack on the hostile atttitude to European Union membership displayed by many UK politicians.

The CBI said the "fog of rhetoric" risked further reducing the UK's credibility as a negotiating partner in Europe and was deeply damaging to Britain's business and economic interests. The employers' organisation also warned that jobs and inward investment were at risk from the UK's "increasingly semi-detached role" in Europe.

Only a fortnight ago the CBI was dismissing the row over the EU's beef ban as no more than a "spat" between members of a club and rejecting suggestions that it would have any impact on British business interests. But at a CBI Business in Europe seminar yesterday, attended by the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine, business leaders queued to criticise the Government's stance in blocking day to day business in Brussels, including a number of directives the CBI has fought to get enacted.

Sir Colin Marshall, the chairman of British Airways and the new president of the CBI, said: "We hope we are going to see a satisfactory ending to the cattle issue and see the Government co-operating. The longer it goes on the more harm it will do to British interests in Europe."

The criticism was stronger from Niall FitzGerald, chairman-designate of the giant Anglo-Dutch foods group Unilever and chairman of the CBI's Europe committee. He said he did not have enough knowledge to comment on the merit of the "confrontation politics" being employed by the Government.

But he added: "I can say that this affair has not helped British business in Europe and, if continued, it would be harmful and disruptive to those of us who represent the more than 50 per cent of British trade which relates to Europe."

Mr FitzGerald also warned of the damage that careless talk about Britain leaving the EU could cause, saying it would expose the country to "regulation without representation". The UK's interests were best served, he added, by ensuring it had effective influence on the shaping of Europe.

"Is Britain more likely to achieve these goals by arguing from a position of trust at the heart of Europe or by carping from the sidelines?" he asked.

The attack was taken up by the chairman of BT, Sir Iain Vallance, who said that business needed a government which was unequivocal in its commitment to Europe.

"We have to know that we have our Government behind us, not minded to pull the rug from underneath us," he added.

Sir Iain also argued that what Brussels needed was more, not less, power over national governments in certain areas.

In particular he said that its competition directorate should have greater power over national authorities while some form of "supra-national monetary discipline" might be necessary to achieve greater monetary stability.

Sir David Simon, chairman of BP, one of the business community's most prominent Euro-philes, said his company would welcome the creation of single currency provided convergence criteria were not relaxed.

Earlier Mr Heseltine, one of the Cabinet's most prominent pro-Europeans, defended Britain's right to protect its own interests as any nation state in Europe would.

But he also stressed the importance for business of Britain remaining at the centre of Europe and dismissed those who suggested withdrawal or membership instead of the European Economic Area as an option.

"It would relegate us to second-class membership of Europe. It would force us to obey rules we had no part in forming and no opportunity to change. A curious prescription from those who claim they want to enhance British sovereignty.

"Britain is going to stay in the European Union. We are going to build from within a Union the British people can be comfortable with."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine