Karan Bilimoria, the entrepreneur who came to Britain as a 19-year-old and went on to found the successful Cobra Beer brand, cited Rabindranath Tagore’s poem “Where the mind is without fear” in the House of Lords to make a fervent appeal for Britain to stay in the European Union.
Sparring between rivals camps continued with a week to go for the June 23 referendum on Britain’s future in the 28-nation bloc. There is much concern over continuing acrimony and divisions generated within the Conservative Party by the referendum.
Bilimoria, a member of the House of Lords, said: “I came to this country from India as a 19-year-old student and I have seen the immense change in this country from the time I arrived in the early 1980s, when it was the sick man of Europe, to today being the envy of Europe.
“The transformation is remarkable. We have seen the highest cumulative GDP growth rate in the European Union since the single market began in 1993. For the United Kingdom it is 62% versus Germany, for example, at 35%.”
Bilimoria said Tagore’s poem with its internationalist overtones was “so pertinent” to the situation, and went on to recite it in full in the upper House.
Seeking to bust 10 “bogus” claims of the “Vote Leave” camp, Bilimoria said there was much about the EU that he did not like – for example, the EU Parliament moving from Brussels to Strasbourg every month for a week was a “ridiculous waste of time and money”.
He said, “However, given a choice, I have no hesitation in saying that we should remain in the EU…This country has to wake up and smell the coffee. The Vote Leave campaign is based on a number of bogus claims.
“I did not think I would ever quote the Prime Minister’s wife, but she said: ‘I want my children growing up with the advantage of starting their careers in a country that is a big fish in a big pond, leading the way in Europe.’ If we leave the EU we will be a tiddler in an ocean.”
Bilimoria added: “It is far wiser and far more productive for us to try to reform the EU from within. Why destroy the growth we have achieved? Why risk our standing as the fifth largest economy, with the highest growth rate in the EU and the largest amount of investment in the EU?”