Business boss’s ‘scare story’on car industry
ONE of the country’s top business leaders was accused of ‘classic scaremongering’ yesterday after warning parts of the car industry will be wiped out unless Britain remains in the EU customs union.
MPs poured scorn on Confederation of British Industry boss Paul Drechsler’s claim that sectors of the manufacturing industry could become ‘extinct’, saying it was ‘absolute nonsense’.
Mr Drechsler, who is due to step down from his role next week, said the £77.5billion-a-year car industry is particularly vulnerable if ‘frictionless trade’ with the EU comes to an end and tariffs and border checks are introduced.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘If we do not have a customs union, there are sectors of manufacturing society in the UK which risk becoming extinct. Be in no doubt, that is a reality.’
He also suggested Britain would be better off using the scale of the EU to negotiate trade deals than trying to do it on its own.
‘There’s zero evidence that independent trade deals will provide any economic benefit to the UK that’s material – it’s a myth,’ he said. But Mr Drechsler’s comments were immediately dismissed by pro-Brexit campaigners, who pointed out that the CBI still receives significant funding from Brussels.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘The biggest risk of extinction is to the CBI, as once we’ve left and prospered, people will realise it is a pointless organisation that gets everything wrong.
‘This is classic scaremongering that the CBI is so practised at. Our car companies export globally as well as to the EU. A number of companies have made very significant commitments to build new products in the UK.’
Fellow Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: ‘This is absolute nonsense, complete guff, but it is not a surprise. The CBI has a very close relationship with the EU and receives a lucrative income from them.’
He added: ‘Britain has some of the most efficient car factories in the world. The fact is that the CBI represents the biggest companies in Britain which love being in the EU as they are big enough to cope with the extra regulation that protects their marketplace from smaller competitors.’
The CBI said it received £138,000 from the European Commission last year – accounting for 0.6 per cent of its income – to carry out economic surveys and collect data for the UK.
But critics point out that it has long It was had an enthusiastic close ties with campaigner Brussels. for the euro, arguing that Britain should join the single currency when it launched in 1999. And it was a key member of the Project Fear campaign in the run up to the referendum in June 2016 to persuade the public to vote to stay in the EU. Before the referendum, Vote Leave campaigners said the CBI ‘is more interested in being the voice of Brussels rather than of British business’.
Irish-born Mr Drechsler, 62, a self-confessed EU zealot who has always sung the praises of Brussels, came under fire in March after urging bosses to turn the public against Brexit.
His latest warnings about the risks of leaving the customs union echo those from major car manufacturers including BMW and Nissan. They are worried that the smallest hold-ups at ports could throw their finely tuned production lines out of sync and lead to factories shutting down.
But at the same time, a succession of foreign car manufacturers – including Nissan, BMW, Toyota and Vauxhall owner PSA Group – have invested heavily in their plants in the UK and committed to building cars here long after the country has quit the EU.
David Buik, a veteran City commentator and Brexit campaigner who now works for the investment firm Core Spreads, said: ‘It suits the CBI to be melodramatic, but big companies tend to be more pragmatic than trade bodies.
‘It is impossible to think that these large car manufacturers would have proceeded on this basis if they were so petrified of Brexit. They would have run for the hills by now.’
‘CBI is a pointless organisation’
SOME people learn nothing from past mistakes. First, CBI president Paul Drechsler threw his weight behind the discredited Project Fear, which predicted mass unemployment and an immediate recession after a Brexit vote.
Now he steps up the scaremongering, with an hysterical warning that parts of manufacturing face ‘extinction’ unless Britain remains in an EU customs union.
But then what can we expect of the head of an organisation with a long history of getting everything wrong – from supporting Ted Heath’s disastrous economic policies to championing British membership of the catastrophic one-size-fits-all euro?
Meanwhile, it emerges that Mr Drechsler took a secretive £7.4million payoff from his last job before moving to the CBI, where he has lectured other bosses about transparency and excess pay. One question: why should anyone listen to such a hypocrite?
WHATa remarkable coincidence that two of the top awards on last week’s honours list went to people who sit on the very bodies that hand out gongs – while three more went to writers whose literary agent sits on one of the scrutiny committees? Doesn’t this smack of arrant cronyism? Who’s going to scrutinise the scrutineers?