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Next's Lord Wolfson: ‘Business is better outside Europe’

Next chief executive Lord Wolfson has backed the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, saying the UK is heading for a “long era of low growth” unless “radical change” happens.

Lord Simon Wolfson

Lord Wolfson

Lord Wolfson, chairman of Next

In a comment piece in The Times, Wolfson said: “A nation that wants to stand still is a nation in decline. If we want our companies to start investing again, we must put aside such fears and place our trust in the collective intelligence and endeavour of Britain’s 30 million-strong workforce. Over the next four months, people will debate the economic pros and cons of Brexit. On balance, I think we will be better off out.”

Wolfson also hit out at the red tape around planning at a national and EU level, which he said makes it difficult for retailers to open new stores.

“Government at every level from local council to parliament has unwittingly chipped away at our nation’s ability to grow over the past 25 years. The EU has only added to regulatory costs but don’t think that over-regulation is just about the EU — our own legislators are as much to blame.”

He added: “Next has identified more than 1.5 million square feet of potential new retail space. Shops that would be an asset to their communities, create jobs and generate a return for investors. But the planning system means we will barely open a third of that space in the coming year.”

Wolfson said the government could tackle the problem by liberating the housing market from “needless rationing and zoning”, investing in better roads, pushing for “vital” new airport capacity, and overcoming “Britain’s anti-growth sentiment” and building free trade with the rest of the world, starting with China and India.

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