A BREXIT-supporting businessman has rounded on the boss of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) for wanting to keep Britain in the customs union.

Simon Boyd, managing director of Christchurch-based Reidsteel, was recently appointed to sit on the CBI’s manufacturing council.

But he wrote an open letter to director-general Carolyn Fairbairn to say it was “incredibly disappointing” that had delivered a speech calling for Britain to stay in the customs union.

He wrote that Reidsteel, founded in 1919, exports to more than 140 countries.

“We may not have the loudest voice compared to big businesses with vested interests in remaining closely tied to the EU, but I have been offered and have accepted a seat on the Manufacturing Council to give my views and add to the debate within the CBI,” he said.

“The customs union (along with the single market and European Court of Justice) has and continues to damage our country’s trading opportunities. Not only does it prevent us striking our own international deals, but it damages other countries though the protectionist ideals that underpin the EU.“Evolving economies need our trade, not our aid. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to take back control of our trading arrangements and for the good of all.”

He added: “We need to see a return of modernised British standards (seen by many as the finest in the world) and an end to uncompetitive and damaging EU directives and regulations.

“Your speech risks damaging the Government’s hand in negotiations just before the next phase of negotiations. It increases the odds of a ‘bad deal’ at a time when we should be clearly setting out our case for a clean Brexit and looking forward with confidence rather than back in fear.

“The position you have taken is incredibly disappointing when the mood of many in business, and the country at large, is one of great optimism in a future outside of the EU and the customs union.”

Carolyn Fairbairn called for a “jobs-first” transition deal to be agreed quickly so business would know there was no risk of a “cliff edge” departure from the EU.

She preferred continued membership of the customs union.

She added: “The idea behind a customs union is simple: a single set of tariffs for goods imported from outside the EU, enabling tariff free trade within it. It brings no obligations over freedom of movement, or payment and removes some of the heaviest trade barriers.”