The CBI’s journey from ‘Project Fear’ to ‘Remoaner’

The pro-EU CBI has not held its hands up after its Project Fear predictions all collapsed. Instead, it continues to peddle the myth of economic melt down. The organisation has moved seamlessly from an agent of ‘Project Fear’ to a ‘Remoaner’, crossing its fingers and wishing for the apocalypse

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A City heading down?
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Matthew Ellery
On 12 October 2016 14:22

During the EU Referendum campaign the public were exposed to their fair share of establishment Euro-fanaticism. The ‘Remain’ campaign was littered with high profile celebrities, economists and politicians.

However, the EU’s main cheerleader was the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). This organisation calls itself the ‘voice of business’, but as ‘Leave’ campaigners correctly pointed out at the CBI’s own conference it is in fact the ‘voice of Brussels’.

Throughout the campaign the CBI peddled ‘Project Fear’. They said Brexit would cause a serious shock to the UK economy costing £100 billion, resulting in the loss of 950,000 jobs. Despite only a few months passing since the referendum result, it is clear these predictions were fundamentally false. The UK’s economy looks stable, with key economic indicators showing a bright future.

Unfortunately, the CBI has not held its hands up. Instead, it continues to peddle the myth of economic collapse. The organisation has now moved seamlessly from an agent of ‘Project Fear’ to a ‘Remoaner’, crossing its fingers and wishing for the apocalypse.

To prove its unwavering EU support the CBI has written an open letter to the UK Government, and its Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn has been doing the media rounds.

This week Fairbairn described business as facing “something of a cliff edge”. She argues the Brexit negotiations are creating business uncertainty, and is no doubt in favour of ‘soft Brexit’.

‘Soft Brexit’ is an absurd phrase, devoid of substance, and has been created to confuse. In reality, what it means is UK membership of the Single Market, rather than simply access to the Single Market. In other words, membership of the EU by the back door. All rules pertaining to the Single Market continue, as well as the membership fees and the EU’s four freedoms (goods, services, people and capital).

One could be forgiven for thinking the CBI is standing up for its members, but it is doing no such thing. The CBI is standing up for its own financial interests and its ability to lobby in the EU’s one-stop ‘lobby shop’. Between 2009-2014 the CBI received £5.4 million from the EU --  so it’s hardly an independent organisation to comment on EU matters.

But it gets worse than this. The CBI isn’t just biased; it also has a history of failure. Over the years, in its various guises, the CBI has called almost every major policy decision incorrectly.

The CBI wanted the UK to join the ‘gold standard’ (the linking of the currency to gold) which led to the to the disastrous crash of 1929. It was also in favour of appeasing Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union. While it opposed secondary picketing reforms and Thatcherite economics, which facilitated a booming economy.

In relation to the EU, the CBI supported the exchange rate mechanism and backed the Euro. The first was a disaster for British business, the second was a disaster for European economies. Many things come and go, but it seems there is one certainty. If the CBI takes a policy position, it will always be shown to be wrong.

The CBI has often celebrated its close relationship with Brussels, claiming this gives its members influence within the EU. Clearly their influence was not great enough as David Cameron’s so-called renegotiation with the EU was a damp squib, which perfectly displays the marginal role our country has been forced into, despite the UK being the second largest contributor to the EU’s budget.

Perhaps the CBI spoke for some of its members when it campaigned for a ‘Remain’ vote. However, I highly doubt their members will continue to be impressed by a display of sour grapes -- bringing businesses into disrepute and damaging our reputation in the world. This has been perfectly exemplified by JCB’s decision to leave the CBI over its EU scaremongering.  

Business has grown since the UK’s historic vote to ‘Leave’ the EU, and following Brexit, we will have many more opportunities to expand into a truly global force.

It is possible the CBI -- like its members -- will embrace Brexit sooner rather than later. However, in light of the CBI’s previous policy positions, their support may be a poison chalice we should seek to avoid.

Get Britain Out is optimistic about the UK’s future. It will facilitate global trade, rather than simply focusing on a declining bloc.

Matthew Ellery is a Research Executive at Get Britain Out.

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