THE founder and chairman of one of Britain’s largest beer brands has called for a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.
Lord Bilimoria of Cobra Beer told The Yorkshire Post that the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May was the “worst of all worlds” and said that leaving with no deal in place would mean every part of Britain’s economy would suffer.
The crossbench peer said that he expected the country to either remain as an EU member state or opt for a much softer Brexit approach but warned that the UK’s standing as a leading nation had been damaged by the Brexit debate.
Referring to the 2016 vote, Lord Bilimoria said that the 52-48 per cent victory for the Leave campaign was “already past its sell-by date” and said that another vote was “the fairest way out of this”.
However Lord Bilimoria categorically ruled out taking his business out of the UK if the country crashed out without a deal, saying “one has to battle through”.
Speaking in Leeds for the launch of a new Cobra IPA called Malabar, he said: “Theresa May can say ‘I have tried my best, I have lost the vote, I have gone back and this is the best I can do’.
In the business world if you want to change things you need a 75 per cent majority. In almost all constitutions you need a two thirds majority to change things. You don’t change it on 52-48.Lord Bilimoria
“If parliament defeats it again, no deal is not an option. The country will not allow it and I don’t think Parliament will allow it. The most democratic thing we could do is to go back to the people and say ‘are you sure you want to leave now you know’.
“If you compare it all, the best deal of all is to remain.”
Lord Bilimoria founded Cobra in 1989 and grew it into the largest Indian beer brand outside of India.
“India has always treated the UK as the gateway to the world,” he said.
“Invariably Indian companies have their headquarters for Europe in the UK.
“America has always treated the UK as the gateway to Europe. We have taken all of that for granted.
“It is, quite frankly, tragic the situation we are in.
“From a business point of view we have all had ups and downs. I have nearly lost Cobra three times.
“When you are on a burning platform you have to make drastic decisions. You have to adapt or die.
“But three years ago, before the referendum was called, what burning platform were we on?
“We were the fastest growing economy in the western world, we were at the top table, we were respected around the world and we were flying.
“There was no need for this.
“This all about one party, and I can say this because I am a crossbench peer, this was all about the extreme right wing, anti-European element and UKIP.
“David Cameron called the referendum to silence them and it backfired.
“And the worst thing about this there was no supreme majority. In the business world if you want to change things you need a 75 per cent majority. In almost all constitutions you need a two thirds majority to change things. You don’t change it on 52-48.”
Lord Bilimoria said in his experience that there was little support for Britain leaving the EU.
“I host delegations regularly in Parliament, I travel a great deal,” he said.
“Countries like India, whether you talk to the political community, civil service or business community, they are 100 per cent thinking we should remain. In one meeting a civil servant said they felt sorry for us.
“They cannot understand why we are doing this to ourselves.
“I don’t think we are going to leave, I have always said. I think we will either end up remaining or have a very soft Brexit.”
Lord Bilimoria was in Leeds to launch Malabar, Cobra Beer’s first IPA.
Named after the Malabar in India it has been two years in development.
It is currently only available on draft but plans are underway to release it in supermarkets in bottle form.
“I have always wanted to do an IPA,” said Lord Bilimoria.
“The craft beer revolution over here is great news for the industry. IPAs went from here to India, why should the biggest Indian beer outside India not have its own IPA?”
It was launched at the Aagrah restaurant in Leeds city centre.