Sajid Javid
Sajid Javid urged the CBI to support David Cameron's renegotiation with Brussels Getty

The UK business secretary has criticised one of the country's top business bodies after it backed Britain staying within the EU "no matter what" ahead of a historic referendum on the issue.

Sajid Javid, speaking at the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) president's dinner in London, claimed that the organisation's position was comparable to being a bad poker player as the prime minister seeks concessions from Brussels.

"You know how negotiation works. You wouldn't dream of sitting 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," the minister said yesterday (29 June).

He added that "it doesn't work in the boardroom and it won't work in Brussels".

"Make no mistake, the reforms we seek are the reforms your members need. An expanding market that liberalises new sectors will benefit British entrepreneurs," Javid said.

"An EU open to trade, concluding ambitious deals with America, China and Japan will benefit all British businesses and consumers.And, as the prime minister has said before, this renegotiation will not just benefit Britain. It will benefit the whole of the EU too."

The remarks come after Sir Mike Rake, the president of the CBI, urged companies to "speak out early" in favour of the UK remaining inside the 28-member bloc.

"No one has yet set out a credible alternative future to EU membership. The current alternatives are not realistic options – little or no influence and the obligation to comply with EU principles while still paying most of the costs," he said.

Javid's intervention overshadowed the news that the CBI, which has received funding from the EU, has appointed Carolyn Fairbairn, a former journalist and management consultant, as its new director-general. The 54-year-old will succeed John Cridland in November.

Meanwhile, Cameron has argued that the British electorate will not accept a "rigid" EU as the prime minister pushes for key reforms.

But the Tory leader has admitted that it will be unlikely for him to secure treaty change from the political and economic union before the referendum, which he has promised to hold before the end of 2017.