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Lord Rose slams calls for fresh Brexit referendum as "nonsense"

Press Association
01 April 2019

Former Marks & Spencer boss Lord Stuart Rose has dismissed calls for a second Brexit referendum as “nonsense” and warned it would inflict years of pain on UK businesses.

The retail stalwart – who helped spearhead ex-prime minister David Cameron’s disastrous campaign to remain in the European Union – said he was “fundamentally against” the UK holding a second referendum.

He said MPs should back Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal and break the stranglehold that uncertainty has on the economy.

Speaking after appearing at this week’s Retail Week Live conference, he said any plans for a second referendum were “nonsense”. “It will cause all sorts of problems,” he said.

It comes after MPs rejected Mrs May’s deal for a third time on Friday and earlier failed to back any of the eight alternatives tabled in the Commons, including a second referendum.

People are trying to plan their businesses, planning whether to order this and that – if you push that can down the road for another year or two, that could mean there’s a period of uncertainty in UK plc for as long as five years,” said Lord Rose.

“That means 2025 before you see the benefits of investments made today.”

That’s not going to help drive the economy,” he cautioned.

Lord Rose admits he got “beaten up” in his role heading up the Remain campaign, which saw him involved in several memorable blunders.

As well as controversially complaining that Brexit would push up wages, he also forgot the name of his own pro-EU campaign in an interview.

Despite his remain stance, he said he respects the result of the referendum vote and backs Mrs May and her efforts to see her deal through to avoid a “catastrophic” hard Brexit.

“(The deal) is not perfect, but it was never going to be,” he said.

Someone has to say, for God’s sake, let’s get on with it.

“In the 59th minute of the hour, people are beginning to realise that – and the alternative, which is to have a hard Brexit, is catastrophic,” he said.

The retail heavyweight – who is now chairman of firms including online grocer Ocado and clothing chains Fat Face and Oasis – said all sectors are suffering from Brexit uncertainty.

“The businesses I’m involved in are all finding it quite tough going,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter which market – people are just thinking do I spend my money now or wait?

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