Sir Richard was a staunch supporter of Remain before the 2016 referendum, and warned during withdrawal negotiations with the EU that his interest in Britain would dwindle outside the bloc. Speaking to the South China Morning Post in 2017, the self-made billionaire said investing in a country that was harming itself “doesn’t make sense”. Sir Richard added: “It doesn’t make sense to invest in a country that is going to self-inflict itself, and there are plenty of other opportunities around the world.
“We’ll carry on investing in the UK but we won’t be investing as much if Brexit goes ahead.”
The entrepreneur made the damning statement a day before arriving in Hong Kong on an inaugural Virgin Australia flight from Melbourne.
Sir Richard’s frustration threatened to have a big impact on the UK economy as his Virgin-branded businesses are big employers, taxpayers and stand as symbols of Britain’s self-made entrepreneurship.
He claimed that his businesses, from airlines to health and financial services, had lost about a third of their value in the one year in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.
Sir Richard also said he was also willing to bet that the tide would turn on Britain’s opposition to the EU within 10 years without the need for a second referendum.
He even predicted the UK would rejoin the EU in that time.
He added: “I would be willing to forecast that if they continue without allowing a second referendum, within 10 years Britain will be back in the European Union again.
“A lot of people my age will have died out and young people will overwhelmingly realise what a mistake was made and they will vote to join the European Union again.
The tycoon added that scrapping Brexit would send “the pound soaring and get trade back up”.
He claimed: “With Brexit, the choices are dreadful, pretty dreadful and remain. A hard Brexit will devastate Britain and jobs.
“A softer Brexit will still be devastating but most companies will survive it, as long as it does not lead to no deal.”
When approached by Express.co.uk, a Virgin Group spokesperson said: “Since 2015, Virgin Group has continued to invest significantly in its businesses in the UK and across the globe.
“Investments in the UK include £75million into Virgin Care, money which has gone directly towards supporting front line NHS services, paying the salaries of doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals.
“Not a penny of profit has ever been taken from the NHS, nor will it ever be. Significant support has also been given to Virgin StartUp, which is a not-for-profit, supporting more than 3,000 entrepreneurs so far in starting and scaling their businesses.
“In addition, Virgin Group has committed $250million to help Virgin businesses and protect jobs under threat from the global pandemic – a large proportion of this will be invested into UK companies such as Virgin Atlantic.”
Published at Mon, 11 May 2020 16:40:00 +0000