British business group calls for early referendum to minimise Brexit risk

Simon Walker [Institute of Directors]

Delaying a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union risks poor timing for companies and politicians, the head of a leading business lobby group is to say today (6 October).

British Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership before holding an in/out referendum by the end of 2017.

But Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, will tell the annual convention of the IoD that “there is a real possibility that a 2017 referendum would be a short-term judgement on the government: a chance to whack the political elite”.

According to extracts of his speech released to media, he will add that while IoD members “believe some uncertainty is a price worth paying to resolve EU membership, delay puts a brake on decision-making, investment and the vigour of their businesses”.

>>Read: With Brexit deadlines tight, UK-EU talks begin

Addressing 2,000 business men and women, Walker will note that “a referendum in two years’ time will see British concerns caught up in the crossfire of the French elections, in May, and the German elections, in September”.

And he will say that “by 2017 this government will have implemented spending cuts that, while necessary, will not be popular”.

Walker points to the fact that the third year of an election cycle “is a difficult time for any administration”.

The Conservative government — elected in May to run the country for five years — has said it will campaign in favour of remaining in the EU, but is pushing for changes on the ability of EU citizens to claim welfare in Britain, increased powers for London and the ability to opt out of closer political integration.

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