Confederation of British Industry President Mike Rake is calling on businesses to “turn up the volume” and speak out in favor of the U.K. staying in the European Union to avoid a damaging exit.
Rake will say Wednesday that Britain is at a “critical moment for growth” and Prime Minister David Cameron’s planned referendum on EU membership is business’s first challenge. Speaking at the lobby group’s annual dinner in London, he will say staying in the bloc and making use of principles such as the free movement of workers are key to U.K. companies’ success.
“Business has increasingly spoken out on this crucial issue, and the time has come to turn up the volume,” Rake will say, according to prepared remarks. “Business must be crystal-clear that membership is in our national interest. The EU is key to our national prosperity.”
Cameron is under increasing pressure to move forward the date of the referendum he’s promised to hold by end-2017 after renegotiating membership terms.
While the Bank of England, businesses and the Labour opposition say bringing the vote forward would reduce uncertainty -- Deutsche Bank AG said Monday it’s considering moving activities out of the U.K. in the event of a “no” vote -- Cameron must also deliver sufficient reforms to please anti-European rank-and-file members of his own Conservative party.
Rake will stress that the EU can be more competitive without effecting a treaty change and said “the moment is ripe for reform,” speaking of a “growing consensus” between business, the U.K. government and other European leaders. He will also underline the need to stay in the EU if the City of London is to retain its position as a leading financial-services center.
Deutsche Bank formed a working group this month comprising senior executives from its strategy, risk and U.K. management teams to study the potential impact of an exit from the EU on the company’s business in the U.K. It is weighing options that may include moving activities to Germany should the referendum lead to an exit.
“Europe and the City need each other,” Rake will say. “Europe needs the City to produce growth and fund EU competitiveness. And the City needs Europe as a gateway to clients, business and investment. EU reform is a chance for both to benefit.”