One of the north-east’s most powerful businessmen has warned that another Brexit referendum would be “really dangerous” for the UK.
Martin Gilbert, who has a direct line to US President Donald Trump and the chancellor of the exchequer, said if the government tried to back out of the divorce deal from the EU it would cause an “uprising” of the far right.
And the co-chief executive of Aberdeen Standard Investments said he believed Scotland had a “really good chance” of becoming independent if Europe agreed to take us back following Brexit.
The entrepreneur, who earns around £4.5 million annually and founded one of Aberdeen’s most successful companies, was talking in front of an audience of businessmen and women at the annual lecture of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI)
He said that while he believed his firm would be fine when the UK eventually leaves the EU, he said there was no doubt manufacturers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) would struggle.
He said: “We’ve planned for a hard Brexit. We’ve set up a subsidiary in Dublin and so have many others. HSBC is in Paris and there are some big companies who have moved into Amsterdam but the big winner is definitely Dublin.
“The issue is definitely going to be with the manufacturing sector, especially the SMEs.
“The big guys again have been planning for this. It’s all about the supply chain.”
Mr Gilbert said at the moment the supply chain works because goods come into Rotterdam before being placed on lorries and sent to the UK.
He said at the moment it takes 45 seconds to clear through customs but the fastest it takes to clear at a hard border anywhere else is two minutes.
Mr Gilbert said this is likely to lead to major issues with goods being held up and backlogs created due to the current lack of infrastructure.
The businessman also said he recently spoke on the phone to Chancellor Phillip Hammond, who informed him the prime minister was “not prepared” to extend Article 50.
He said: “He made it clear the deal is the deal. There is no other deal from both Europe’s side and the UK’s side.”
But Mr Gilbert said the worst thing that could happen would be to have a People’s Vote if Theresa May’s new deal is not backed.
He said: “I think another Brexit referendum is really dangerous. We would just see the rise of the far right and it would be an own goal for the UK if that happens.”
The 63-year-old said he also felt like an independent Scotland would be one step closer if the EU extended an olive branch once the UK leaves.
He said: “I think there would be a really good chance of an independence referendum if Scotland could remain in the EU.
“But Europe are not offering any olive branches as we know. Spain are totally opposed to allowing Scotland back in so I am not convinced they would win one without the promise of Europe.”