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Big business weighs in on EU referendum

European membership is "in the UK's national interest", writes Alison Goddard.

Businesses should speak out early in favour of remaining in a reformed European Union, the head of the Confederation of British Industry is due to say. Sir Mike Rake will argue at the group’s annual dinner this evening that firms "must be crystal clear that membership is in our national interest", according to a report by the BBC. The Guardian says that the employers’ organisation is urging its members to "turn up the volume" on the benefits of EU membership. The Financial Times identifies that George Osborne is the guest of honour at the dinner and that Daniel Korski, the prime minister’s Europe advisor, and Jo Johnson, the universities and science minister, have been tasked with liaising with businesses and universities about how to present the case for remaining in the EU. The referendum will feature prominently in the Queen’s Speech, scheduled for 27 May. It now seems likely that the plebiscite will take place in 2016, which the Financial Times says the prime minister would welcome so long as he can complete his negotiations for EU reform in time (which seems unlikely). For once, Universities UK appears prescient: it pressed ahead with its campaign on EU membership as soon as the election result was clear.

As the candidates for the Labour leadership jostle for advantage, Peter Mandelson has offered some candid advice. Without the honest analysis of the defeat of the Labour Party in the general election—its worst in nearly three decades—there is a risk that the party’s choice of leader will merely pave the way to a similar disappointment in 2020, he writes in the New York Times. He argues that 15 per cent of voters in the central ground determine the outcome of elections and that they want a fairer society but they "need to be treated to a reasoned argument, not a ‘them and us’ assault that undermines rather than builds consensus".

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