The business secretary on Monday night criticised the CBI’s stance over the EU referendum , overshadowing the appointment of its new boss, Carolyn Fairbairn.
Sajid Javid made his intervention at a dinner of the employers’ body, which has mounted a high-profile campaign to see Britain remain in the EU.
The government, which is calling an in-out referendum on continued membership of the EU, wants to negotiate changes with its European partners. Javid said the CBI had been showing a commitment to remaining part of the EU even without these reforms.
“You know how negotiation works. You wouldn’t sit down at the start of a merger or acquisition and, like a poker player showing his hand to the table, announce exactly what terms you were prepared to accept,” said Javid. “It doesn’t work in the boardroom and it won’t work in Brussels.”
His remarks were reported just hours after the CBI announced that Fairbairn, a former head of strategy at the BBC and ITV, would be its new director general.
Fairbairn, 54, will replace John Cridland – who has led the CBI since January 2011 – in November. She will be the first woman to lead the organisation, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
It was already clear that one of Fairbairn’s main tasks will be to shape the CBI’s stance for the coming EU referendum.
Cridland and Sir Michael Rake, the CBI president, have supported Britain remaining in the EU but have been criticised for representing the view of big companies over smaller businesses.
Ahead of Javid’s speech, the CBI said Fairbairn supported its advocacy of Britain remaining in a reformed EU. The CBI’s members voted eight to two in favour of the position two years ago, but some big companies, including JCB, have taken a more hostile line on membership.