Over the last five decades, I've launched dozens of businesses and the Virgin Group now employs almost 50,000 people in the UK. Although I've been living in the British Virgin Islands for some time now, I have never stopped caring passionately about the UK and its great people. As an entrepreneur, I've learned a thing or two about risk and leaving the European Union is not one of the risks I would want the UK to take - not as an investor, not as an entrepreneur, and certainly not as a father and grandfather.
The EU has delivered enormous benefits to the UK, its economy, and its people. Up to three million British jobs are linked to the UK's membership in the world's largest single market. It's a market of more than 500million consumers, offering unparalleled opportunities for investment and trade while guaranteeing openness, transparency and security. EU trading partners buy 44% of all British exports, more than 300,000 British businesses operate in other EU countries and it provides great support for thousands of start-ups each year. I have yet to hear a convincing reason why the UK should give that up.
There are other, more personal reasons why the UK should stay. For starters, one of the EU's most important achievements is that it has kept its members out of conflict in Europe. I represent the first generation of my family not to go to war in Europe. My father Ted fought in North Africa, Italy and Germany during World War II. My grandfather survived the horrors of the trenches in World War I. For centuries, almost every generation was at war with one European country or another.
But from the bloodshed and devastation of World War II rose a new vision of a peaceful partnership between Europe's nations built on economic cooperation and openness. Even Winston Churchill called for a "United States of Europe" where millions will "be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living." Not a single shot has ever been fired between the armies of EU member states. In fact, in 2012, the European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize for advancing the causes of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights.
As a member of the EU, the UK is much better off economically. It can trade without barriers or taxes. British citizens can live, learn and work wherever they want in the European Union. And any global threats facing British citizens young and old, such as climate change, financial crisis or conflict, are better addressed collectively.
The EU has made both Europe and the UK stronger. If you agree with me I'd urge you to vote to remain.
Richard BransonSuggest a correction