JCB quits as CBI member in Brexit protest

JCB, one of Britain’s biggest manufacturers, has terminated its membership of the CBI amid fury at the employer group’s anti-Brexit stance.

Sky News has learnt that JCB, which makes construction equipment that is exported around the world, resigned as a CBI member during the summer, in the aftermath of June’s historic referendum.

The decision makes the privately owned company the most prominent CBI member to quit in protest at its warnings ahead of the EU poll that Brexit would cause significant damage to the UK economy.

The CBI and JCB both confirmed the move on Monday, although they declined to discuss the motivation for it.

However, people familiar with the decision confirmed that the CBI’s Brexit stance had triggered JCB’s decision.

A CBI spokesperson said: “It’s always a shame to see any member leave the CBI, but we recognise that businesses have competing priorities and we respect that.”

Lord Bamford, JCB’s chairman, authorised a £100,000 donation to Vote Leave, the official pro-Brexit group, and wrote to the company’s 6,500 staff shortly before the referendum to say that the UK had “very little to fear” from leaving the EU.

“The UK is a trading nation and the fifth-largest economy in the world,” Lord Bamford wrote.

“I am very confident that we can stand on our own two feet.

“I believe that JCB and the UK can prosper just as much outside the EU, so there is very little to fear if we do choose to leave.

“I voted to stay in the Common Market in 1975.

“I did not vote for a political union.

“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.”

People close to the CBI insist that only a small number of members have left the organisation because of its decision to lobby in favour of staying in the EU.

Nevertheless, JCB’s resignation highlights the disquiet felt by some companies about the business group’s approach to the referendum.

While it did not register as an official campaign group ahead of the poll, the CBI was an enthusiastic supporter of the Remain campaign.

The CBI director-general, Carolyn Fairbairn, has now switched the organisation’s attention to lobbying in favour of a so-called ‘soft Brexit’ which preserves the fullest possible access to Europe’s single market.

In an open letter published last week and signed by Ms Fairbairn and the heads of other business lobbying groups, the Government was urged to avoid “defaulting to trading by standard World Trade Organisation rules”.

“We respect the result of the referendum, but the Government must make sure that the terms of the deal to leave ensure stability, prosperity and improved living standards,” the letter said. 

“The UK voted to leave the EU but not, as the Chancellor said, to cause living standards to decline. We want a Brexit that safeguards future prosperity for everyone across the UK.”

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