'India will eat our lunch and China our dinner'

PRASUN SONWALKAR

LONDON: If British industry is not careful, "India will eat our lunch and China our dinner", says the chief of the Confederation of British Industry.

Confederation director-general Digby Jones, speaking at the Birmingham Law Society's International Legal Symposium, accused the European Commission of forcing businesses towards economic decline because it had failed to recognise the growing threat of globalisation.

In a scathing attack on the Commission, Jones said European companies were losing out to competitors in China and India because of stifling red tape.

He said rule makers in Europe were too inwardly focused and spent too much time making sure businesses in member states were obeying regulations.

"The Commission is weighed down with the political ideology of a bygone age, failing to face up to the harsh reality of globalism.

"As a result, businesses across Europe are being stifled by red tape and regulation. If we are not careful, India will eat our lunch and China our dinner," he said.

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Speaking to lawyers from across Europe gathered in Birmingham, Jones cited as an example Britain's flexible labour laws, which had helped make the nation among the most competitive in Europe, with the lowest levels of unemployment.

"Instead of holding up the UK as an example, the Commission currently has some of our most flexible practices under the microscope."

Jones went on to claim that Europe was divided into two cultures -- the "beer drinkers" of Northern Europe, who interpreted the Commission's directives by the book, and the "wine drinkers" of Southern Europe who implemented them, "if at all, in their own time".

He added: "The Commission is guilty of concentrating on creating a level playing field for the internal market, but failing to understand our position in the global economy.

"The real threat is from those nations around the world who often exploit cheap labour and commit the kind of crimes against the environment that enable them to produce their goods and services more cheaply."

Jones issued a stark warning that British workers who did not have a skill soon will not have a job. "In five years there will not be a job in this country for anyone who does not have a skill," Jones said.

He said the days of volume manufacturing were gone and that Britain could not compete with cheap labour economies such as India and China. But he said there were huge opportunities that have been created by Britain becoming "the most successful macro-economy in the world".