A candidate for Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party is a property developer who is attempting to make money from uncertainty around the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Ben Habib, who was unveiled as a European elections candidate by Farage at the party’s launch on Friday, is chief executive of First Property, a fund manager and investor with operations in the UK, Poland and Romania.
In numerous interviews with trade publications, he has revealed his plan to snap up property bargains by buying up regional office blocks ignored by big companies suffering “Brexit nervousness”.
In February 2018, he told Business Insider that such investments could yield as much as a 10% return on investment every year.
“There is Brexit nervousness in the market,” Habib said.
“Larger lot sizes - which are typically the more buoyant part of the market - have been hit harder than the smaller lot sizes, because it’s the institutions who are more concerned about Brexit than the private individuals and smaller corporates.”
“The institutions are slightly pausing for breath.”
In July 2017, he told IPE Real Assets: “The UK’s decision to leave the EU has created opportunities on which we, as a niche fund manager, are well placed to capitalise.”
And on the day of the referendum, June 23 2016, he told the same publication: “Any volatility would only be an opportunity for small, opportunistic companies such as First Property.”
Farage has repeatedly criticised Theresa May’s Brexit deal, which has been rejected in three Commons votes, prompting MPs to then vote against a no-deal departure which in turn influenced the prime minister’s decision to delay EU withdrawal to October, prolonging uncertainty.
But a Brexit Party spokesman made clear that it wants to speed up the process by forcing no deal.
Responding to HuffPost UK’s story, Habib said: “I’ve said my company will do fine with or without Brexit.
“We have a hedged business. Properties in the UK and Poland. Whatever effects Brexit might have on the market we should be fine.”
But Labour MP Alex Sobel, a supporter of the anti-Brexit Best for Britain campaign, accused Habib of “putting our country through hell just to make a quick buck”.
He said: “Ben Habib is the latest in a long line of Brexiters who have sold our country short for their own financial gain.
“They claim to be on the side of the people, but then we find out their real reason for backing Brexit.
“It’s disgusting and highlights why people are so wary of the Brexit Party. A vote for them is a vote for elites with no care for our country’s well-being.”
Labour MP Catherine West added: “Thanks to our broken economy, while Theresa May is making a mess of Brexit, rich property speculators are able to use the chaos she has unleashed on the country to get even richer.
“Clearly, Farage’s new party is just as in the pocket of vested interests and the establishment as the Tories.”