Britain's Cutting Edge, by Jag Boss; GERMANY IS SUFFERING THE DISEASE OF TOO-HIGH SOCIAL COSTS'

Article excerpt

Byline: RAY MASSEY

THE boss of Jaguar's German operation gave Britain an amazing vote of confidence yesterday.

Hartmut Kieven said punitive social costs placed on his country's employers by the EU's Social Chapter were too heavy a burden, giving British companies the competitive edge in Europe.

`Britain has done a tremendous job in the last few years,' he told me as he left the Geneva Motor Show for a sales drive in Frankfurt. `It is better off than Germany. It is doing fantastically well.

`You have the lowest unemployment, lowest inflation and lowest taxes for top management and entrepreneurs. Don't change now.

`Look at the social cost burden I have employing people. I pay the employee 100 per cent and then have to pay 50 per cent on top.

`We used to talk about the British disease of strikes and low productivity. Now we have the German disease of far too high social costs.'

He said the EU must learn its lesson from Britain and take a more realistic view of the level of compulsory social cost contributions continental firms are forced to make for employees under the Social Chapter, which Britain opted out of at Maastricht.

His message comes as Germany faces its worst unemployment - 4.3million - since the depression of the 1930s and struggles to meet the criteria for joining a single currency.

Sales of Jaguar's XK8 sports car are booming in Germany, running at double the predicted level - the firm says buyers are trading in Mercedes, BMWs and Porsches to buy British. …