Exclusive: Tycoon questions leadership

Souter: ‘Brexit is not such a big deal for the UK’

Sir Brian Souter: (photo by Terry Murden)
Sir Brian Souter: (photo by Terry Murden)

Damage is ‘overestimated’

Transport tycoon Sir Brian Souter last night defied fellow SNP backers by saying the Brexit decision was “not as big a deal as people are making out”.

Sir Brian, chairman and co-founder of bus and rail company Stagecoach, said the potential damage from Britain’s EU withdrawal was being over-estimated.

He urged Britain’s politicians to show leadership in building new trading relationships

The often outspoken entrepreneur told an audience of start-up company owners that there were other trade links open to Britain but he questioned whether the country’s political leaders were up to the task of delivering them.

“I am not so negative on Brexit as others seem to be,” he said. “There will be some challenges, but our currency has adjusted…I just think we are over-estimating the damage. Provided we get a settlement for our financial services sector we could be in a positive place.”

He added: “It [Brexit] is not as big a deal as people think. It will not have the impact that the financial crash, or the war in the Middle East will have on us.”

DB Photography advert 2Addressing a Virgin Start-Up meeting in Edinburgh, he accused both sides in the referendum campaign of being “hysterical and polarised”.

He said the Brexit decision was a result of voters not trusting politicians and because they “did not want to be part of a European super-state”.

He said: “They wanted the project revisited and changed. They did not necessarily want to pull out.

“But it may prove to be good for Europe. We may end up with a sensible agreement.

“There is a whole world of trade relationships out there. The question is whether we have the guts to make our own way in the world now we are out of this club.

“I am not sure we have the strength of political leadership. We need to be really aggressive about how we intend to drive the UK economy forward.”

As a donor to the SNP, Sir Brian’s views will cause some alarm to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who believes the Brexit decision has been devastating for the UK and Scotland.

However, he concluded his comments by distancing himself from the Brexiteers.

“I am not a Brexiteer,” he said. “In fact I could not make up my mind which way to vote.”


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