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Sir Jim Ratcliffe has described UK energy policy as “crap” in his latest criticism of the country’s business environment.
The billionaire owner of the Ineos chemicals group accused the British government of ignoring scientists by banning fracking, and of deterring investment in North Sea oil and gas through windfall taxes.
“Whether we like it or not, we cannot survive without hydrocarbons as that is 85 per cent of our energy base in the UK,” he said. Government data puts this figure at 75 per cent.
“Energy policy is complex, but it’s not rocket science [ . . .] You are not going to be able to power the whole of the UK on wind.”
By contrast, he said, the US had “got most of it right” in terms of energy policy, having kept prices low — including by exploiting its own resources.
“Having competitive energy is critically important if you want people to continue to invest in your manufacturing base,” he added.
Ratcliffe, who also confirmed he is still in the running to buy Manchester United, was speaking at an event in London to promote a new book about Ineos — Grit, Rigour & Humour — marking the company’s 25th anniversary.
And this week he has already accused British regulator the Competition and Markets Authority of becoming “increasingly hostile to business” after it blocked Ineos’s deal to buy Swiss company Sika’s concrete additives business.
“Its attitude is mirrored in the lack of government support for manufacturing; whether in reviews such as this, or in our uncompetitive approach to energy policy,” he said on Tuesday.
Ratcliffe founded Ineos in 1998 with co-owners Andy Currie and John Reece, snapping up assets from BP, ICI and others to develop it into one of the world’s largest chemicals business.
It also owns oil and gasfields in the North Sea and in the US, and invested heavily in trying to develop fracking in Britain before the process was banned in 2019 because of concerns about earthquake risk.
The group has expanded into consumer-facing businesses in recent years, such as developing the off-road Grenadier 4×4 vehicle, and buying up football club OGC Nice, among other sports interests, and clothing brand Belstaff.
Ineos is now vying with Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Qatari businessman, to buy Manchester United from the Glazer family.
“There’s still a process; we are in the process,” Ratcliffe said on Wednesday. “But at the end of the day it’s their decision.
“We’d still very much like to do it and we’d do it for the right reasons.”