Sir Richard Branson wants the UK to stay part of the EU because the alternative would be catastrophic. His simple reasoning is that “if we go back to being Great Britain again we will have our hands tied behind our back.”
The Virgin founder and multi-millionaire businessman chose BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday to urge voters in the planned in/out referendum not to turn their back on Europe. He also spoke up in favour of full monetary union.
“How anybody would want to go back to the days where all these barriers were put up, I just find it inconceivable,” Sir Richard said. “We’re talking from a position of strength. If we go back to being Great Britain again we will have our hands tied behind our back and I think Europeans will rightly punish us and we’ll be back to where we were 50 years ago.”
As for the prospect of peripheral changes like amending immigrant access to benefits, as advocated by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Sir Richard said: “If they need to tinker with one or two of these things in order to make sure that we don’t end up doing something more catastrophic like leaving Europe, that’s fine by me. I think there are much bigger issues that I’m concerned about.”
Sir Richard played down the dominance of EU bureaucrats, saying he was comfortable with the job they did in Brussels. There were “no more” people doing administration for the political body than “run a city like Birmingham”, and he said he would continue speaking out for Europe in the future.
“I’m very happy just to say why we should be proud of being Europeans. Each European country is trying to improve Europe, that’s much better to do from within Europe than from without.”
Last week, a number of business leaders wrote to The Times to argue that Britain is stronger in Europe. Branson was among them, however when asked if he was willing to lead the campaign for Britain to stay in the EU, he declined by saying he had stayed out of politics all his life and was not about to change that decision.
Leaving the bloc would be “catastrophic” for Britain, Branson concluded, adding that the EU had helped preserve relative peace in Europe. Branson also said his home country might be richer if it had joined the eurozone in full.
“I think if we were part of the euro right now, our currency would be a lot cheaper. Great Britain would be doing that much better at trading in Europe,” he said.
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