Pro-Leave businesses hit out

Sugar factory Image copyright Tate & Lyle Sugars

Tate & Lyle Sugars, one of the UK’s oldest firms, has written a pro-Brexit letter to staff saying that leaving the EU would benefit the business.

The letter, written by senior vice president Gerald Mason, says that the EU has pushed up the firm’s costs.

He is not telling the 800 staff how to vote, but say jobs will be more secure outside the EU.

Meanwhile, entrepreneur Sir James Dyson says the vote “is the last opportunity to regain control of our futures”.

Sir James, most famous for his vacuum cleaner, says in an article in the Times that voting to remain in the EU “would be an act of national self-harm”.

Wednesday is the last official day of campaigning ahead of the UK’s in/out referendum on its membership of the European Union, with voters going to the polls on Thursday.

The intervention by Tate & Lyle Sugars (TLS) and Mr Dyson comes as more than 1,280 business people signed a letter in the Times backing a vote to remain in the EU.

TLS, which is no longer part of the FTSE 100 company Tate & Lyle, is the largest sugar cane refiner in Europe and has been based on the banks of the River Thames since 1878.

Telling staff the company is losing money because of EU policies, Mr Mason writes: “Last year EU restrictions and tariffs pushed our raw material costs up by nearly 40m euros (£31m) alone, turning what should have been a good profit that we would all share into a 25m euros loss.

‘Not democracy’

“We pay as much as 3.5m euros of import tariffs to the European Union on some of the boats of cane sugar that unload at our refinery, only for the European Union to then send that money to subsidise our beet sugar producing competitors in Europe.”

Mr Mason said he has challenged EU officials about reforms, but been told “that if we lose our jobs then that’s democracy because there are more beet producers than cane refiners in Europe. That is not the sort of democracy I want to be part of”.

Trade and economy

How trade and the UK’s economy are affected by membership of the EU.

Why this issue matters

The debate

  • About half of UK overseas trade is conducted with the EU
  • The EU single market allows the free movement of goods, services, capital and workers
  • Trade negotiations with other parts of the world are conducted by the EU, not individual member states


  • UK companies would be freed from the burden of EU regulation
  • Trade with EU countries would continue because we import more from them than we export to them
  • Britain would be able to negotiate its own trade deals with other countries


  • Brexit would cause an economic shock and growth would be slower
  • As a share of exports Britain is more dependent on the rest of the EU than they are on us
  • The UK would still have to apply EU rules to retain access to the single market

His frustration at being unable to influence Brussels was echoed on Wednesday by Sir James.

In his Times letter, the entrepreneur says: “I have been manufacturing and exporting globally for 46 years and have ‘sat at the table’ dealing with European bodies for at least 25 of those.

‘Mythical powers’

“I can confirm that we have no influence whatsoever in the shaping of Europe’s protectionist laws and regulations. Believe me, we’ve tried.”

He said the argument that Britain would be more prosperous outside the EU was overwhelming. He writes: “There is an entirely misplaced belief in the mythical powers of the single market and its influence and importance to the UK economy.

Image copyright Getty Images

“It is simply untrue that Europe is the world’s largest market. It represents only 16% of global trade – and its share is contracting according to the IMF.

“It remains a collection of smaller markets each with its own languages (Belgium has two), laws and cultures, with different plugs, boxes, and advertising.”

Britain’s focus should be more on the rest of world, he adds, saying “we have nothing to fear by leaving”.

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