“It has been a bloodbath”: Branson talks Brexit

The Virgin Group founder made his feelings clear on the results of the EU referendum at the finale of VOOM 2016...

Last week’s EU referendum result in which Britain voted to leave the EU has, in the words of Sir Richard Branson, “been a bloodbath” and “will be devastating to business” if there is nothing done to “resolve it”.

Speaking at a press conference today following the VOOM 2016 competition finale, the Virgin Group founder explained that “unless somebody makes a very bold move […] to say that once we’ve negotiated with Europe there will be another referendum, [then] we’re taking the country to a recession very rapidly”.

Branson’s comments, made less than 24 hours after his blog post calling for Parliament to take a second look at the referendum, also revealed that the entrepreneur’s array of Virgin businesses have been impacted by Brexit.

Branson said that Virgin has “had to cancel major investment programmes, put a job freeze on” and has seen one of its companies lose 50% from its share price.

The full statement is published below:

“I think unless somebody makes a very bold move quickly maybe to say that once we’ve negotiated with Europe there will be another referendum, if we carry on down the current path we’re taking the country to a recession very rapidly.

“Shares have been wiped out over the last three days, there will not be the money to be invested in new businesses, in bigger businesses and in infrastructure projects. I think the justification for another referendum is simply that the Brexiteers did not know what they were voting for.

“They assumed that the £350m would be going to the NHS but Nigel Farage admitted straight after the vote that that was not the case. [Brexiteers] assumed that they would have immigration under control but Brexiter ministers admitted […] that was not the case at all. They said there would not be a massive down draft in the financial markets and this was an exaggeration. £3 trillion got wiped off the global markets in the first 24 hours, we lost more money in British shares then we’d paid into the European Union started in one day. 

“It’s been a bloodbath and young people, overwhelmingly, are telling me that up until four days ago they could go and work in 28 countries, suddenly they’re restricted to one country. Britain’s going to be broken up into smaller units.

“The business world wants stability, we work enormously hard to make a difference in this world. Within 48 hours, we [Virgin Group] have had to cancel major investment programmes, we’ve put a job freeze on, one of our companies we’ve seen the share price come down 50% – that kind of blow to a company is going to take a lot of work to resolve.”

“It’s just sad that people didn’t realise [what the impact of leaving the EU would be]. I did try to warn people what would happen if they voted out and put full-page adverts in newspapers but it’s going to be devastating to employment in Britain, to wages and it’s going to be devastating to business and infrastructure. We should have had a third runway in the 1940’s and now that will get delayed too.

“Two thirds of the House of Commons MPs believe that we should be part of Europe, and they were voted in by the public. The referendum was advisory not legally-binding. In business if we suddenly realise we’ve made a dreadful mistake we’ll change tact [so] I think for the sake of the country people have to be brave and change tact – by all means go for another referendum when people have all the real facts.

“The majority of people didn’t realise the earthquake that would happen; in fact they were told by the majority of English papers – the right wing press such as The Mail, The Express, The Sun – that this [earthquake] was all scaremongering. Anyway it’s proven not to be scaremongering!”

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