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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Guru Careers: In-House / Internal Recruiter

£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project