Former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg has sparked a bitter row with Brexiteers after declaring the EU referendum the “single stupidest thing any country has ever done”.
Speaking at a technology conference in Boston a fortnight ago, the 75-year-old added: “It is really hard to understand why a country that was doing so well wanted to ruin it.”
Bloomberg did however qualify his remarks by adding: “… but then we Trumped it,” in reference to the election of Donald Trump.
Bloomberg was in the UK this week to open a new European headquarters for his financial news service in London.
In comments reported by The Guardian, the media mogul expressed doubt as to whether he would have still done so had he known of the UK’s departure from Europe, adding: “Would I have done it if I knew they were going to drop out? I’ve had some thoughts that maybe I wouldn’t have, but we are there.”
Bloomberg’s remarks have ruffled feathers among Brexiteers, who where quick to point out some other decisions worse than leaving the EU:
Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme last year, Bloomberg warned Brexit would damage Britain’s economy.
Bloomberg, who has an honorary knighthood, said: “It’s not for me to tell British people how to vote, it’s for me to explain what - as an employer of 4,000 people in the UK, somebody who has a residence here, somebody who is building two of the most expensive buildings ever built here in the UK, in London, to make this our European headquarters - what it means for our employees, and what it means for our company, and what it means for America.
“I just think the UK would be disadvantage compared to the situation they are in now. They have a special relationship with the rest of the EU. They have the borders they can control, unlike the rest of the EU. They have a trade surplus with the rest of the EU. They have some abilities to influence the dialogue that without which they would, and America - which is my concern - would not benefit.”
Bloomberg, however, wasn’t shot of defenders:
Britain is seeking a so-called implementation period of around two years following its departure from the European Union in March 2019, during which its access to the EU single market would stay largely unchanged while new arrangements are put in place.
Brexit minister David Davis said on Wednesday he wants an outline agreement with the EU on the transitional arrangements by the first quarter of 2018.