An EU vote? ridiculous
Sir Richard Branson says a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union is “ridiculous” and that leaving the economic bloc would badly damage UK businesses
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Sir Richard Branson has described plans for a referendum on whether Britain should be a member of the European Union “ridiculous”.
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By Matthew Stadlen
9:00PM BST 26 Oct 2013
Sir Richard Branson has described plans for a referendum on whether Britain should be a member of the European Union “ridiculous” and that leaving the economic bloc would badly damage UK businesses.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Sunday Telegraph, the entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Atlantic, who says he now spends 90pc of his time working for philanthropic causes, also defended himself against suggestions he has left the country for tax reasons.
“My income from speeches is about £6-8m, 100pc of which I give to charity, so whether I lived [in Britain or elsewhere] it would be tax-free anyway,” Sir Richard said.
“And then I make a smallish salary, which I give to charity as well. I work bloody hard. I travel the world for six months of the year working my balls off, it’s pretty well all not for profit.
“I’ve made enormous amounts of money while I’ve lived in England [which has all been taxed and] which I can live off for the rest of my life and my children could live off for the rest of their lives.”
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While saying he understood why, politically, David Cameron had to promise a referendum on Europe, Sir Richard said: “We’ve already made up our mind to be part of Europe.
“It’s ridiculous to have to go through a whole process again, [an] unsettled process. Our European partners are pretty exasperated with Britain anyway.
“And there’s always a danger the referendum could go against Great Britain, which would be devastating for the economy.”
If Britain starts having to pay tax for exporting goods to Europe, Sir Richard said, it would be a disaster.
“My generation is the first that hasn’t been to war in Europe and people forget that,” he said.
“We’re never going to go to war with each other as part of a European Union where people get married together, where people can live and work in each other’s countries.
“There’s always little niggles, there are going to be laws that people are not going to like, but Britain should be part of trying to improve [these].”
Sir Richard, 63, lives on the Caribbean island of Necker which he bought when he was 28. He recently had to endure headlines claiming he was a tax exile.
Asked whether he now felt like a citizen of Britain or a man of the world, he replied that he saw himself as the latter. He said living in Necker made no difference “whatsoever” from an income point of view and that he has chosen to live on the island because he thinks it is “the most beautiful place in the world”.
When asked whether he missed Britain, he replied, “I just love the British Virgin Islands. When I’m there I’m active till nine at night — it doesn’t get dark until then — and in Britain I know I’d be watching some television in the evenings in winter. You know, it’s just a different way of life.”
Sir Richard declared himself optimistic about the British, American and European economies, saying they had turned the corner, but claimed that Britain was being harmed because of weak government decision-making in the aviation sector. “There hasn’t been another runway [at Heathrow] since 1945 or 1946 and Great Britain has been held back as a result,” he said.
Despite the resistance to a third runway at Heathrow, he called for a fourth and backed two new runways at Gatwick if Britain is to compete with Europe generally.
“We need all parties to be brave and do what’s right for [the country] and not what’s right for short-term political expedience,” Sir Richard said.
“It’s sad for Great Britain that that investment is not taking place and the damage that’s been done to the UK is massive. China — all those planes are pouring into Europe, they’re not coming to the UK.”
The entrepreneur said he broadly backed the fast rail link from London to Birmingham, High Speed 2, but called on the Government to consult more with the rail industry on the plans.
I have no time for Richard Branson at all
He is quite ruthless , many years ago when I was living in Jersey and working in a Bank, he had a Trust set up there. when he started up Virgin on my advice I persuaded my Son who was 18 at the time to buy shares. I think we bought 100 at about £2 a share. The first year we recieved a small dividend and not long after a letter from Richard Branson to all shareholders to say he was buying back the shares because of too much interference and we were paid less than they were bought for , my Boss in the Bank when I told him a while later said if he had known I was going to buy shares he would have advised me not to, Branson needed Capital to promote Virgin and keeping the majority holding and selling shares was the way to go.
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