Just three weeks out from the Scottish Referendum, Sir Mike Rake will tell an audience of business leaders that the CBI has a right and a duty to raise questions about issues of legitimate interest for businesses, workers and citizens across the UK.
The question is not whether an independent Scotland would survive outside the UK but whether it would prosper, he will say.
Speaking at the CBI Scotland Annual Dinner at the Hilton Hotel, Glasgow, Sir Mike will say that he firmly believes that the UK is and always has been greater than the sum of its parts and will warn that the risk of a yes vote for Scotland and the UK is enormous.
On the Scottish referendum, Sir Mike will say:
• “Undoubtedly, the decision on Scotland’s future is ultimately one for the voters here in Scotland.
• “In three weeks’ time, a yes vote based on so many substantive questions unanswered, will be a binary decision – a one way ticket to uncertainty with no return.
• “Currency union is an example. The liability, exposure and lack of control such a union would levy on the UK taxpayer makes it an obvious non-negotiable position for the UK Government. It’s why we wanted to see what the Scottish Government’s alternative plan would be.
• “The goods and services from key sectors in Scotland like finance, energy, and defence thrive by virtue of being part of our internal market of 60 million consumers, as well as being linked to a network of regulation, investments, and support. We should have no fear of drawing strength from what is achievable as one state. Scotland also benefits from the gifts of our shared institutions: the NHS, the BBC, the Royal Mint, the Armed Forces …200 bodies in all. But there is a profound difference between how we share them now, and the sharing of them with a neighbouring but separate nation state. Nothing can be taken for granted, and there are no guarantees.
• “As a new state, Scotland would have to leave and reapply to join and negotiate the terms of its EU membership. And to achieve this may well mean signing up to the Euro and Schengen. So, the question is whether all this negotiation would match the favourable terms established by the UK? Nothing can be taken for granted, and there are no guarantees.”
Sir Mike will also raise the UK’s global future and will make clear that open markets are an essential part of an open economy. He will go on to highlight his concerns about the impact a possible EU referendum has on investment.
On Europe, Sir Mike will say:
• “We accept that calling a referendum on EU membership is a constitutional issue for government, but the ambiguity has already, and is increasingly, causing real concern for business regarding their future investment. Business is in no doubt that we must retain and secure our country’s global future. If we’re isolated, we cannot be our best.
• “The growth and jobs we need depend on our external relationships, and it’s our membership of the European Single Market which is crucial. The EU isn’t perfect. The CBI’s Global Future report looked at other options and concluded that we are best served by remaining in the EU and seeking reform. We don’t want a special deal to satisfy narrow measures for the UK alone, but we do want Europe to become a more efficient place to do business – Lisbon Agenda, not Lisbon Treaty; for Europe to be more adventurous, open and competitive, and for its activities to be rooted in the priorities of member states.
• “With a new Commission and Parliament there is a window of opportunity to establish the building blocks of reform. We need our MPs and MEPs of all colours building helpful alliances in the European corridors of power.”
In his concluding remarks, Sir Mike will focus on the great lessons of our Unions, national or international; that they reinforce our determination to drive forward towards prosperity and a better future for all our citizens. He will shine a light on just how much there is still to achieve, the importance of minimising uncertainty and maximising our collective strength and the need to balance the challenges we face with a vision of the sort of country we all want to live in. He will also stress that this demands strong and pragmatic leadership from politicians and support from the business community.
Sir Mike will end by stressing his personal belief that we will remain a United Kingdom, within a reformed European Union, focusing on what’s important; growth, jobs and prosperity for all.