Next boss and prominent Leave campaigner Lord Simon Wolfson has criticised the Government for failing to present a clear vision on Brexit, warning that leaving the EU alone does not guarantee success.
The Tory peer told the Press Association that he had no regrets over his support for Brexit, but said it was important not to isolate Britain in the process.
“The truth is that all of us who voted for Brexit knew this at the time: Brexit in and of itself does not guarantee failure or success.
“It is the type of Brexit that we make that will determine how successful we are, and as of yet we don’t know really what direction the Government’s going,” Lord Wolfson said.
“We desperately need a clear vision, and what I hope is that vision is one of an open, outward looking, tolerant, liberal, Brexit that recognises that we need to control immigration, but also recognises the enormous value that hard working, tax-paying people make to our economy when they come to our country.”
Lord Wolfson made the comments on the sidelines of the London ceremony for the 2017 Wolfson Economics Prize, which awarded £250,000 to 27-year-old Hungarian born UCL graduate Gergely Raccuja for his proposed solution to fund and overhaul the UK’s road network.
When asked whether he had any fears that Brexit might discourage foreign nationals from trying to develop ideas to propel Britain’s economic development, Lord Wolfson said he did not expect a change.
“The nice thing about ideas is that they can flow across borders regardless of any limitations that people put up.”
Mr Raccuja told the Press Association he participated in part because he has “always had a desire to make things better”, and said he has not been put off of Britain as a result of the Brexit vote.
“I didn’t take it personally at all, I don’t think this is about people … the whole discussion about the European Union and the UK’s membership of it is a bit bigger and there are a lot of people who would vote Brexit who aren’t against immigration, and I think that’s often forgotten.”
Lord Wolfson said that issues like infrastructure actually have a chance to gain fresh political traction as Britain departs the bloc.
“In some ways I think Brexit will focus people’s minds on the economy and what can be done to stimulate the economy.”
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But Brexit-fuelled inflation has started to take its toll on a number of sectors, with prices rising across food, energy, clothing and fuel following the pound’s collapse.
Next itself has warned that rising prices, wage pressures and a subsequent slowdown in consumer spending could result in full-year profits falling by as much as 14 percent.
Lord Wolfson told the Press Association that the retailer was making its own contingency plans, but was not worried about its future.
“Almost everyone’s preparing for Brexit, and actually the company I work for – which is used to importing and exporting goods all over the world into all different customs areas and all different jurisdictions paying all kinds of taxes – actually the challenges that Brexit poses are relatively small.
“That doesn’t mean that they’re small for the nation, but they’re certainly small as far as our own business is considered. We’re not concerned.”