Theresa May’s deal is worse than staying in the EU
Three of the biggest donors to the Leave campaign have told Sky News that they are dismayed by the progress of Brexit and that it would be better for Britain to remain in the European Union than sign up to Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.
The trio, who offered more than £5m in donations for the Leave campaign, each offered scathing criticism of the political process and insisted that Brexit had been “hampered”, “squandered” or “obstructed”.
- Billionaire financier Peter Hargreaves said there would be “no Brexit” because politicians “are cowards”.
- Investment manager Jeremy Hosking, a major shareholder in Crystal Palace football club, said Mrs May’s deal would put the UK “in a straitjacket”.
- Stuart Wheeler, founder of spreadbetting giant IG Index, said the UK had been reduced to “subservient begging”.
Mr Hargreaves, who was behind the biggest personal donation to the Leave campaign, told Sky News that he thinks Brexit will not happen because politicians are “completely out of touch” with the will of the people.
The co-founder of the Hargreaves Lansdown finance giant donated more than £3m to the Leave campaign during the referendum.
But he said MPs are now trying to obstruct the path to the UK leaving the EU – and he is prepared to bankroll a new political party to pursue the ideals of Brexit.
“I don’t think Brexit will happen,” he said. “It’ll go on and on and on and in the end I don’t think Brexit will happen. I think we’ll remain in the EU as we were before and it will all have been misspent energy.”
He claimed that Mrs May was “absolutely not” the right person to lead negotiations and said it was a travesty that Brexit negotiations had not included input from Leave-supporting business leaders, such as himself, Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin or James Dyson.
He said: “How can we get a good deal when the negotiating team want to remain. It’s not possible. It’s crazy but has she asked any of the lead Brexit people? Has she asked any of us what we would do? No.
“We haven’t been consulted. Dyson, the JCB guys, Tim Martin. All smart business people who have done big deals. We haven’t been we haven’t been consulted. It’s crazy.”
Mr Hargreaves was also scathing in his criticism of the Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, who he said was “a glamour-boy Canadian interfering in UK politics”.
“He’s never run a business, he’s never done anything of value.
How is his opinion better than mine? I’ve built up a huge huge business. How is his opinion better than mine? I tell you it’s not. He’s not fit to be the Governor. He should never have got the job in the first place,” he said.
But of all the criticism that Mr Hargreaves launched, his greatest ire was reserved for the political process that, he believes, has derailed the country from the Brexit that it voted for, and which he spent millions in promoting.
“Well, it does seem to me that it was I was wasting my money,” he said “I couldn’t have believed that if we won, that people would just ignore the fact that the electorate said we would like to leave.”
He believes a “no-deal” Brexit would be “perfect” because “other countries would desperately want our trade” but said, in scathing terms, that British politicians were too scared of embracing the opportunity.
He added: “They’re all cowards. They’re frightened of being brave and rocking the boat.”
The finance company that Mr Hargreaves helped to found from a spare room in 1981 is now worth £8bn. His own wealth has been estimated at £3bn.
And he revealed that he would be prepared to use some of that fortune to bankroll a new political party to pursue the sort of Brexit that he thinks people voted for.
He said: “I honestly think there would be enough people who would vote purely for candidates whose main criteria was to get Brexit done with people doing the negotiations that want Brexit.
“I would get my cheque book out for that. And I think there would be enough people putting themselves forward as candidates.
“I think I would simply ask people who were passionate about this country and totally disillusioned with politics. You’d have to vet them to some extent.
“There is definitely a need for a new look at politics in this country. As long as it looked sensible, I would get behind it.”
His plan has received support from another of the biggest backers to the Leave campaign.
Mr Hosking, a banker who donated more than £1.5m to the campaign, told Sky News there was an “establishment conspiracy” to thwart Brexit.
He told us that the Leave movement needed “to get the band back together”, perhaps by invigorating his Brexit Express pressure group, and turning it into a political party.
Mr Hosking shares Mr Hargreaves’ belief that it would be better to remain in the EU rather than sign up to Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement, if only to allow for a fresh approach.
He said: “Right now, remaining looks better than Mrs May’s deal because with Mrs May’s deal we will have lost Article 50, we’ll be in a customised straitjacket with the EU, whereas if we were to remain we could look at the whole thing from a fresh standpoint.”
With parliament preparing to vote on the deal, he warned MPs that “there’s going to be a lot of pressure brought to bear on them in the next few days” and urged them to “stick to their guns… and by doing that keeping faith in most of the 17.4m people who voted for Brexit”.
It is an opinion echoed by a third man who helped to bankroll the Leave campaign.
Mr Wheeler, founder of the IG Index spread-betting company, once gave £5m to the Conservative Party, and gave more than £600,000 to help support Leave during the referendum.
He said he was “bitterly disappointed” by the political process over the past couple of years and claimed Britain was in “grave danger of becoming a vassal state”. Mrs May, he says, “has done a hopeless, appalling job”.
His hope is that political turbulence will see Britain leaving the European Union with a no-deal Brexit: “I would be in seventh heaven to see that.”