Sir Bryan flies the Euro flag

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The Independent Online
Sir Bryan Nicholson seems to enjoy mixing his metaphors as much as mixing it with the Eurosceptic wing of the Tory Party. Last night he was in flying form, deriding them as a flock of cuckoos transmuting into a plague of locusts. You get the general idea. The president of the Confederation of British Industry is not keen on their cut, however they manifest themselves.

In this respect he is at one with the Prime Minister, with whom he shared the speaker's platform at last night's CBI dinner. John Major too has little time for the more virulent anti-Europeans within his own ranks, nor the "bastards" that represent their interests in Cabinet.

However, like the Tory Party, the CBI is a broad church and all shades of opinion need to be catered for. Mr Major's concession to his Eurosceptic wing yesterday was to announce a policy of non-cooperation with our EU partners until the beef ban is at least partially lifted. Sir Bryan may also have to offer a sop to those within the business community who are not quite as gung-ho about the benefits of staying in the EU as he. By and large the CBI represents big business and by and large big business likes, or at least tolerates , the EU because of the benefits the single market brings.

But there is a significant minority within its ranks that is now quite vocal in questioning whether European union is good for much else. Few yet go as far as calling for withdrawal from the EU but the unspoken agenda is there: how can we maximise our self-interest in Europe as a trading block while opting out of everything else that membership entails.

This is dangerous territory but it is ground that has to be recaptured. The lament of the pro-European camp has long been that not enough of its supporters are prepared to stand up and be counted - a criticism that applies particularly to the business community. It has to be the case that Britain gains vastly more from its membership than it would ever get from withdrawal. Sir Bryan put his head above the parapet to make that case last night. More business leaders should follow his example or they may lose the argument by default.

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