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JCB CEO claims "ridiculous" bureaucracy could lead to EU exit

The chief executive of the UK’s largest plant firm has argued that an exit from the EU would “make no difference” to trade with Europe.

Speaking to The Guardian, Graeme MacDonald, chief executive of JCB, argued that the level of bureacracy within the EU was “quite frankly ridiculous”.

“There has been far too much scaremongering about things like jobs,” he argued.

“I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to stop trade. I don’t think we or Brussels will put up trade barriers.”

Mr MacDonald added that it would be better for UK business to quit an unreformed EU, saying that the current system “cannot carry on as it is”.

“It’s easier selling to North America than to Europe sometimes,” he said.

His comments were echoed by Lord Bamford, chairman of JCB, who said that the UK should be able to “negotiate as our country rather than being one of 28 nations”.

In an interview with the BBC, he said that the UK, as “the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world”, could exist on its own, “peacefully and sensibly”.

The comments follow warnings from industry figures on the potential impact of an EU referendum on construction.

The referendum, provisionally set for 2017, has been cited as a threat to private sector investment.

Industry figures were in broad agreement that the referendum would create significant uncertainty, leading to delayed investment decisions.

And the more distant prospect of an EU exit was also flagged as a threat, with one source describing it as “a very big cloud on the horizon”.

Lord Bamford was speaking following JCB’s annual results for 2014, with the company recording a profit of over £300m for the fourth year in a row.

The group’s sales turnover fell by 6 per cent in 2014 and underlying earnings dropped by 3 per cent, caused by underperforming businesses in Brazil, Russia, India and China.

But sales in North America grew by a record 23 per cent, while sales of plant machinery in the UK rocketed by 30 per cent.

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