JCB boss says UK should quit Europe unless David Cameron can cut 'red tape'

Mr MacDonald said he doubted the EU would put up trade barriers if the UK left the bloc

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The Independent Online

JCB’s chief executive believes that the UK should leave the European Union unless David Cameron is able to cut the amount of EU “red tape” affecting businesses, according to a report.

Graeme MacDonald, chief executive of the firm which is one of Britain’s biggest manufacturers, told The Guardian: “What is needed is a lot less red tape and bureaucracy. Some of it is costly for us and quite frankly ridiculous.

“Whether that means renegotiating or exiting, I don’t think it can carry on as it is. It’s a burden on our business and it’s easier selling to North America than to Europe sometimes.”

Mr MacDonald said he doubted the EU would put up trade barriers if the UK left the bloc, which currently has 28 members.

“I really don’t think it would make a blind bit of difference to trade with Europe,” he said.

“There has been far too much scaremongering about things like jobs.

“I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to stop trade. I don’t think we or Brussels will put up trade barriers.”

Lucy Thomas, campaign director at Business for New Europe, which supports staying in the EU but also argues for reform, said if the UK left, businesses would still have to meet standards set in Brussels.

“Of course JCB and others could still sell their goods to Europe, but they would still have to meet EU standards whatever they happened to be. Surely a seat at the table when rules are decided is better than no say at all?” she said.

“There is also no guarantee of what ‘out’ would look like: British businesses could potentially see tariffs and other barriers imposed on their goods and services, making them far less competitive.

“We also benefit from free trade deals with over 50 countries all over the world and outside the EU we would lose all of those. Renegotiating would take years and why would global powers listen to the UK with 65 million consumers more than the EU as a bloc with 500 million?

“Companies who say they would reconsider their presence in the UK really mean it. They will go wherever makes business sense and if the UK is no longer competitive, they will not stay.”

HSBC’s chairman Douglas Flint warned last month that it might leave the UK, partly because of the risk that the country could leave the EU.