More articles Friday 18 August 2017 7:55am
“Ten years of Faff” Says Entrepreneur Richard Reed on Brexit at the Edinburgh International Book Festival
Entrepreneur Richard Reed says he fears Brexit will “lead to ten years of faff” and that voters should have a chance to reject the outcome in two years’ time. But the co-founder of juice brand Innocent and former deputy chairman of the “Remain” campaign also said politicians should get the “time and opportunity to negotiate the best possible deal”.
Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Reed said his argument for staying in the European Union (EU) had been a “practical one”. “It’s just going to lead to ten years of faff,” he said, “I just would rather politicians would focus on schools and hospitals and roads and culture and all those sorts of things that make life even better, not this weird sort-of twisted negotiation to get out of something we want to get back into.”
Reed said he would “shoulder” part of the “responsibility” for the last June’s referendum defeat, admitting to “some fundamental errors in the campaign”. “Obviously, I’m hugely biased,” he added, “but broadly speaking pretty much everything we said would happen is starting to happen, and everything they [the Leave campaign] said would happen is clearly not going to happen: there isn’t going to be the money for the NHS.”
The Huddersfield-born businessman was talking about his book, If I Could Tell You Just One Thing...: Encounters with Remarkable People and Their Most Valuable Advice, which includes contributions from former US presidents, Holocaust survivors, anti-Apartheid activists and media moguls. Reed wanted to collect the words of wisdom that helped motivate him and two friends to transform a smoothie stall into a multi-million pound empire.
Asked about his role in the EU referendum campaign, Reed said those negotiating on behalf of the UK “should be given the full support and the time and opportunity to negotiate the best possible deal”. And if the outcome was successful, he said he would “be first person to go ‘I was totally wrong, this is wicked and put my full support behind it.
“But if they’re given their two years and given their full ability to go after it and they come back with something that is basically less good for this country, then I think we have a democratic right and an absolute responsibility to go, ‘oh no, no thank you, we didn’t vote for that’. But they do need to be given the opportunity to negotiate the deal and then we should take a clear-sighted look.”
Reed also reflected on Innocent’s initial policy of giving away 100 per cent of its profits to charity, something he now considered “crazy”. “Because then you’ve got nothing in the rainy-day fund. If you look at the time of our stewardship, the net amount of money we gave to charity was 60 per cent of our profits, even that, quite frankly, was actually a bit too much because we had to borrow money and we nearly lost the business.
“We [had] always said our minimum is 10 per cent, I think that is absolutely doable for every organisation on the planet and I always think if every organisation on the planet did give 10 per cent of their profits to charity, just imagine how different the world could be. But first you have to make sure your business can sustain itself, because otherwise it’s not going to achieve your goals.”
And asked by the audience about global events including Brexit and President Trump, Reed declared himself “a massive optimist about human beings”. “I think if we get through the next 30 years we’re going to be fine,” he added, “there’s some crazy things happening but I wouldn’t bet against humans. Deep down in our DNA, whether you’re a Brexiteer or a Remainer, you wanna help: you love your friends and family and you want to do the right thing. So, we’ll get there; I don’t think Brexit’s going to help us get there, but we’ll still get there anyway, it’ll just take a bit longer – there’ll be more faff.”