The founder of FTSE 100-listed finance company Hargreaves Lansdown said today the “little bit of unknown” that would result from the UK voting for Brexit in June’s European Union (EU) referendum would give the British economy a big boost.
Speaking in a personal capacity on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Peter Hargreaves predicted that Brexit would be “a great incentive” for the British to prove their choice was correct. He explained:
“I’m firmly convinced, that day —hopefully — we decide to leave, that little bit of insecurity, that little bit of unknown will be an absolute fillip to everyone.”
Comparing Brexit to Singapore’s independence from Malaysia in 1965, Mr. Hargreaves said:
“When Singapore became independent from Malaysia, that little insecurity that they were no longer part of Malaysia, it was an inspiration. I honestly think that would be good for us too.”
Mr Hargreaves, who voted for free trade with Europe in 1975, was also keen to rebut ‘Project Fear’-style warnings of the fate of the City’s financial industry in the event of Brexit. Suggesting such concerns were exaggerated he said:
“We raise money for the Russians, we raise money all over the world for countries that are not in Europe, there isn’t the expertise in Frankfurt and Paris to do that.
“You can’t suddenly have the expertise to do it, because they don’t want to use London. They’ve got to use London. London can raise billions on a few phone calls. Nowhere else can they do that and most people that work in the City wouldn’t want to work in Paris and be taxed to the hilt.”
Mr. Hargreaves also said that “most people don’t want to work in Frankfurt”, adding:
“They want to work in London because London’s a fantastic place to work. These people aren’t going to move, so if people want it done they’ve got to come to London because that’s where we are.”
Rounding off his attack on ‘Project Fear’ talking points, Mr. Hargreaves turned to the impact on trade beyond the City saying that the rest of the EU would be foolish to impose post-Brexit trade barriers on the UK, saying:
“Can you imagine if they put up a trade barrier – and we would reciprocate immediately – just imagine the three phone calls Angela Merkel would get the following day, the chief executive of Volkswagen, the chief executive of Mercedes and the chief executive of BMW.”
Mr. Hargreaves has long been a critic of scare tactics in the EU debate. Last year he told the Financial Times:
“The europhiles accuse the eurosceptics of a scare campaign but it’s the other way round. This fear that suddenly we will lose millions of jobs and millions of pounds in trade is utter bunkum.”
The Leave.EU campaign group said it was “absolutely thrilled” at his support. Head of Communications Andy Wigmore said:
“When true entrepreneurs like him come out to say that leaving the EU is a once in a lifetime opportunity, people listen.”