EU Referendum

EU referendum: Phones 4U founder 'hysteria over Brexit'

John Caudwell Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Phones 4U founder John Caudwell is also a noted philanthropist and once boasted he had Britain's biggest tax bill

Phones 4U founder John Caudwell has said there is "a lot of hysteria" spoken about Brexit and it was "rubbish" to suggest three million jobs would be lost if Britain left the EU.

Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, Mr Caudwell said Britain suffered an annual £8bn loss because of its contribution to Europe.

"It's gone from the British taxpayer. Gone for good," he added.

The entrepreneur set up the Phones 4U chain, which he sold in 2006.

A referendum on whether the UK should stay in the EU will be held on 23 June 2016.

Trade

Mr Caudwell told the BBC: "There is a lot of hysteria about why Britain should stay in. There is a lot of subjectivity."

He said there was nothing stopping Britain setting up trading links with other countries around the world.

"You hear three million jobs will be threatened as a result of leaving Europe. That is complete rubbish. Being a free country to trade with every country in the world and not to be seen to be a partisan part of Europe that is a good thing."

The three million jobs claim is hotly debated and hit the headlines in 2014 when, the then chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander revealed a Treasury analysis which looked at the number of jobs linked to British exports flowing to the EU, which is Britain's single biggest trading partner.

James McGrory, chief campaign spokesman for "Stronger In" said: "Britain gets a return on investment of about 10 to one on its EU contributions, worth about £3,000 every year to each British household.

"Tariff-free trade with the single market, the world's largest trading bloc, means more jobs and lower prices for British people here at home. Leaving would put that at risk."

Last month, a report commissioned by the CBI business lobby group argued that an UK exit from the EU would cause a "serious economic shock", potentially costing the country £100bn and nearly one million jobs.

The CBI said the study found that a vote to leave would have "negative echoes" lasting many years.

'Fresh start'

The co-founder of stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown, Peter Hargreaves, is another successful businessman who recently gave his support to Brexit.

Speaking on the Today programme last month, he said a "fresh start" would help the country become more innovative and entrepreneurial.

Also last month, John Longworth resigned as director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) after saying the UK's long-term prospects could be "brighter" outside the EU at its annual conference.

This contradicted the BCC's pledge to adopt a neutral stance in the debate.

Mr Caudwell is a noted philanthropist and in 2013 signed up to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett's Giving Pledge, which calls on billionaires to commit at least half their wealth to charity during their lifetime.

Last month, the Vote Leave's Business Council apologised to Mr Caudwell when they included his name in a letter of 250 signatories backing exit from the EU.

Mr Caudwell had previously supported the campaign, but he had not put his name forward for the list.

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