Brexit – where do the UK’s influential figures stand?

With the official leave date for the UK’s departure from the EU only a matter of weeks away (March 29th), and the final outcome is still up in the air, many big British manufacturers have voiced their concerns about a potential fallout from a no-deal Brexit. However, amid the stockpiling, job losses and slow market growth, there are still some famous faces and business leaders championing Brexit.

In this month’s blog, SinoScan weighs up the two arguments, through examining the opinions of some of Britain’s most influential figures:

For Brexit

Sir James Dyson

James Dyson has become a well-known name in the pro-Brexit campaign, with many Brexiters championing him for how businesses should model themselves post-Brexit. Dyson has famously said he was “enormously optimistic” about Britain’s trade position post-Brexit; which would allow the UK to create its own trade policies - although his recent decision to move the Dyson headquarters to Singapore has suggested otherwise to some of his critics.

Katie Hopkins

Unsurprisingly, Katie Hopkins has been very vocal about her opinion on Brexit and strongly backs the leave campaign. In December Hopkins lead a rally through Exeter, urging Leave voters to ‘dig deep for Brexit’ and not give up, despite the uncertain future of Brexit.
In an interview prior to the rally, Hopkins criticised the PM for the current Brexit negotiations, saying: “This is a battle of attrition - wearing down the Leave voters until they give in to Theresa May’s horrific deal just to get people to shut up about it.”

Dame Joan Collins

Dame Joan Collins has also come out in favour of Brexit, suggesting that it’s “going to be very good for us”. The actress praised the general public’s decision to vote leave and explained her own reasons for voting leave: “I think we want our sovereignty and we want to make our own laws. This country is very different from the country I grew up in. I’ve seen a big change. This is a tiny island. There are too many people coming in and we’re going to sink into the sea with so many people.”

Tim Martin

Weatherspoon’s founder and chairman, Tim Martin, has also been a big supporter of Brexit, although has criticised May for seeking a deal with “unelected EU representatives”. Martin still argues that Britain would be better off with a no-deal scenario, suggesting that each Brit would save £600 by avoiding a hard-Brexit. Martin also suggests that the UK would be able to remove tariff barriers on imports from countries such as Singapore and Australia, leading to lower prices for British consumers.

Against Brexit

Deborah Meaden

Deborah Meaden has become a prominent voice for the second referendum campaign and in an opinion piece for The Guardian, she urged the Government to allow the general public to vote again and not settle for a “second-best” deal. Meaden has described the current Brexit deal as a “disaster for innovators and entrepreneurs” and instead wants to see a deal which will allow for “frictionless access to markets, which encourages start-ups to build their businesses in the UK.”

Dame Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson has heavily warned against Brexit, saying Britain would become a ‘cake-filled misery-laden grey old island’. The actress, who is also a prominent human rights activists, described Brexit as ‘madness’, saying that “we should be taking down borders, not putting them up”.

Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson has warned that a no-deal Brexit would leave the UK ‘near bankrupt’ and that we wouldn’t be much better off with a hard Brexit either – controversially suggesting that a hard Brexit could be "more damaging than the Second World War" for the UK economy.

Paul Polman

Unilever’s chief executive has come out strongly in favour of remaining in the EU, arguing that it is ‘better to sit at the table to drive the changes than not to be invited to the table’. The company attracted criticism early last year for plans to move it’s HQ to Rotterdam; however, Polman denied that the move was prompted by the UK's decision to leave the EU, and these plans have since been reversed.

A new perspective

Gina Miller

Gina Miller has described herself as neither for or against Brexit, rather becoming a figurehead for the recently announced ‘Lead Not Leave’ campaign – which has urged the Government to honour the 2016 referendum, as opposed to leaving with no deal. In an open letter to May, Miller has urged the PM to “restart the constructive dialogue that your predecessor, David Cameron, began with Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, which showed real promise in terms of addressing the issues that were, just a few months later, to dominate the referendum debate”.

Along with business leaders, the UK and global nations will be watching eagerly over the next few weeks, as the government attempts to find some sort of consensus amongst MPs for a deal that the EU will go for. Should we hold our breaths…?

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