LONDON (Reuters) - The billionaire stockbroker bankrolling the campaign to pull Britain out of the European Union agrees with opponents of Brexit that it will make the country more insecure, but he thinks that is just what the United Kingdom needs.
“It would be the biggest stimulus to get our butts in gear that we have ever had,” Peter Hargreaves told Reuters in an interview.
“It will be like Dunkirk again,” he said, comparing it to the sealift when Britain was forced to evacuate its forces from Europe after France fell to the Nazis in World War Two, revered in British history as a moment the nation rallied to face mortal peril.
“We will get out there and we will be become incredibly successful because we will be insecure again. And insecurity is fantastic.”
It is a message that could surprise other “Out” campaigners, who have tended to play down the insecurity associated with leaving the EU, arguing that it is not as risky as Prime Minister David Cameron and other advocates for staying make out.
“These out of touch remarks from the Leave campaign’s biggest donor show they simply do not care about the damaging consequences for people’s jobs, family finances and Britain’s economy,” said Will Straw, executive director of Britain Stronger In Europe.
Straw said Britain is stronger, safer and better off in Europe than “we would be on our own”.
“Far from being fantastic, leaving would hit family finances by 4,300 Pounds a year and is not a risk worth taking”, Straw added.
Hargreaves, 69, made his fortune as one of Britain’s richest men co-founding stock broker Hargreaves Lansdown (HRGV.L) in 1981. When donors to both sides in the EU referendum campaign were announced on Wednesday, he emerged as by far the biggest on either side, having given 3.2 million pounds to the Leave camp.His argument, that Brexit will lead to insecurity, is precisely the reason why most bodies representing London’s financial services industry have come out strongly in favour of staying in the EU, and several big global banks have donated to the “In” campaign. The banks say insecurity is bad for business.
But Hargreaves said he believes the smart money wants out.
“All the people in the City of London who I rate and are intelligent and talk sense actually say it would better if we left,” Hargreaves said. “All the government lackeys, all the bureaucrats and the people on the boards (who) haven’t got a clue what they are talking about want us to remain.”Like many in the leave camp, Hargreaves says the EU imposes an unnecessary burden on British financial services and small businesses, which are the main employers in Britain, by imposing red tape.“Some of the regulation that we have to obey is bizarre and by people who have never been to Britain and wouldn’t know how to spell financial services,” he said. “There are just crazy, crazy things.”He compared the future of Britain outside the EU to that of Singapore, which became independent from Malaysia in 1965 and developed into a major financial centre.“It was a mosquito-infested swamp with no natural resources,” he said. “All they had were people with brains and hands and they turned into it the greatest economy in the world. I believe that will happen to us, too.”
Editing by Peter Graff