Britain’s referendum to leave the European Union has already damaged the country’s “global brand,” says Sir Martin Sorrell, the head of the world’s largest advertising conglomerate.
Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP, made the remarks in an article published by The Independent on Monday.
Sorrell said the xenophobic nature of the 2016 referendum campaign by pro-Brexit politicians did serious damage to the UK’s global stature.
He praised Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent deal over European Union citizens’ rights, but added that it was merely the first step in order to repair the British image.
“It doesn’t … address how we will continue to attract the best and brightest from across mainland Europe and beyond after Brexit, or repair the damage already done to the UK’s brand by the divisive rhetoric during and after the referendum campaign,” he said.
May signed the divorce deal with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on December 8 after months of negotiations. The deal covers Britain’s exit bill, the future of the Irish border and the rights of EU expatriates in the UK.
In the run-up to the June 23, 2016 referendum, the Vote Leave campaign ratcheted up hatred against immigrants and minorities like Muslims living in Britain.
Hate crimes in the UK involving racial and religious discrimination have spiked at an unprecedented rate since the referendum, raising concerns that minority groups feel “more vulnerable than ever.”
The record figures confirm reports that the Brexit vote prompted a wave of hate crimes based on religion and ethnicity, and have led to calls for the UK government to “urgently” improve its response to such crimes.
Sorrell, who supported Remain in the referendum, wrote that, despite May’s Brussels deal, Britain has to do a lot in order to end the uncertainty for British firms about future trade relations with Europe.
“Uncertainty will be a fact of business life for at least as long as it takes to negotiate a new trading relationship with the EU, if there is one,” he said.
“Until that happens, many companies will continue to delay or cancel decisions to invest in the UK,” he wrote.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also warned that Brexit has already damaged the UK economy, despite a strong recovery in global economic growth.