Virgin founder Richard Branson: Brexit is a disaster and what’s happening in the US is dangerous – CNBC
Branson, who spoke with CNBC’s “The Rundown” onboard Virgin Australia’s inaugural flight between Australia and Hong Kong on Wednesday, said he’s dismayed by the rise in protectionist policies, particularly in the U.S. and U.K.
“Trade protectionism is so unhealthy. What happened with Brexit is a terrible, terrible thing for Great Britain and Europe and will set back Great Britain and may take several years to recover,” said Branson, who holds a 10% stake of Virgin Australia.
A vocal advocate of Remain camp, Sir Richard Branson says he will continue to push for a second referendum, in a bid to overturn the prior ballot.
The U.K. voted in a referendum a little over a year ago to exit the European Union, but negotiations between the two parties have proved difficult.
“Brexit hasn’t even happened yet and you’re already seeing an impact on medium and small companies in Britain. If we do see a hard Brexit, that will be catastrophic for Britain and damaging for Europe too,” he said. but added that he didn’t expect a hard Brexit.
He was hopeful that younger generations, who protested vocally in the recent British elections, will encourage policy makers to hold a second vote on Britain remaining in the European Union.
“Young people want to live and work in 28 countries. They don’t want to see those barriers being put up,” the storied entrepreneur said.
On the U.S., Sir Richard labeled some of President Donald Trump‘s policies, such as the travel ban imposed on a number of mainly Muslim countries, as dangerous.
“What is happening in America at the moment is extremely unhealthy and dangerous and we will certainly speak out on that,” Sir Richard said. “I think once people have lived with Donald Trump for two or three years, I’m hopeful things will reverse in America and decency will come back and walls can be broken down again.”
In the meantime, the storied entrepreneur continued to forge ahead with new opportunities, including helping direct Virgin Australia’s long-haul ambitions toward the Chinese mainland.
“China is extremely important, every year the number of people coming to Australia from China is growing by around 18 percent, compared to about 7-8 percent from America,” he said.
On the airline sector more broadly, Branson said the scene was pretty healthy and he anticipated a further leg down in fuel prices.