One of Britain’s most successful industrialists has written to his 6,000 UK employees to tell them there is “very little to fear” from leaving the European Union (EU) and he is “very confident” that the country “can stand on its own two feet”. The letter from JCB boss and Tory peer Anthony Bamford is the first sent by a major employer to his staff advocating a Brexit.
Contradicting Downing Street efforts to declare unified business support for staying in the EU, Lord Bamford — one of the Tory Party’s biggest donors — stated that he believes “JCB and the UK can prosper just as much outside the EU.”
Writing as one of Britain’s most successful exporters, Lord Bamford noted that while 22 per cent of JCB’s annual turnover is generated by sales of the company’s construction, agriculture, waste handling and demolition equipment to EU countries, 78 per cent is derived from the UK, India, the Americas, Russia, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and the Far East.
— Leave.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) June 9, 2016
Lord Bamford revealed that in 1975 he did vote to stay in what was then the Common Market, but he said he was not voting for “political union”, adding:
“I did not expect us to hand over sovereignty to the EU. I certainly did not expect unaccountable leaders in Brussels to govern over us.”
Now saying that he is rejecting “an EU of diminishing economic importance as it moves towards ever closer union” by voting to “reclaim our sovereignty and regain control of how we trade with Europe and the world”, he concluded:
“If the democratic decision after June 23 is to remain, it will be interesting to see how the UK fits into the EU of the future, given that political and fiscal union remains its ultimate goal.”
Meanwhile, a backbench Member of Parliament (MP) in the Conservative Party today said she was withdrawing her support for the Brexit campaign over its “shameful” argument that an exit would boost funding for health.
In a blow to the “Out” campaign, which has been gaining in polls before June’s EU referendum, Sarah Wollaston MP (pictured) said leaders of Vote Leave had “knowingly placed a financial lie at the heart of their campaign”.
She was referring to the 350 million pounds Vote Leave says Britain pays to the EU every week – a figure that has been challenged by the “In” campaign and other economists for not taking into account Britain’s rebate.
Vote Leave says it will use some of that money to invest in the country’s stretched public health service, the NHS.
Writing in the Times newspaper, Wollaston said: “The claims about health from the Leave campaign have been shameful.”
“They have knowingly placed a financial lie at the heart of their campaign, even emblazoning it on their battle bus, alongside the NHS branding, to imply a financial bonanza. It’s an empty promise,” said Wollaston, who is also a doctor and Chairman of the House of Commons Health Select Committee.
With two weeks to go until the referendum both sides of the debate are stepping up their campaigns to win over undecided voters as polls show that Britons are all but evenly split over EU membership.
Wollaston said the campaign had been “unnecessarily acrimonious and divisive” – a charge echoed by several members of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party, which is deeply divided over Britain’s EU membership.
In a further blow to the Tory Party’s Remain Campaign, the Secretary of State for Defence to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Sir John Nott, suspended his Conservative Party membership today, saying that Cameron and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, had “poisoned the debate” with their “frenetic” warnings of what would happen if Britain left the EU.
The Telegraph newspaper reported that Nott had written in a letter that he would not renew his membership of the party “until we have a change in leadership.”
Reuters contributed to this report.