Bernie Ecclestone has said he believes that Vladimir Putin should be put in charge of Europe, Donald Trump would make an excellent US president and immigration has brought no benefits whatsoever to the UK.
“I think Europe has become less important, full stop,” he told the WPP chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell, during a conversation at Advertising Week Europe in London.
Sorrell asked if he meant western Europe, eastern Europe, or both, and pointed out that Ecclestone was a great admirer of Putin and what he had done on the continent.
Ecclestone replied: “He should be running Europe.” Sorrell then asked: “He should be in Brussels running Europe?”
“No, we should get rid of Brussels and he should just be in charge,” Ecclestone said. “He does what he says he’s gonna do, he gets the job done. I mean people don’t understand exactly what he wants to do ... He wants to put Russia back to what it was.”
The claim that Putin “gets the job done” echoed comments that Ecclestone had previously made about Adolf Hitler. Defending himself in front of 300 advertising executives, who watched in silence, he said that did not mean he admired the late Nazi leader.
Sorrell then turned the conversation to the US primaries, asking Ecclestone what he thought of the Republican favourite, Donald Trump. “I think he’d be fantastic [as president],” Ecclestone said. “I’m sure he’s much more flexible than most of them. If he’s made a mistake, he’s more likely to say: ‘It was a good idea at the time.’”
In a session billed as being all about the EU referendum, the billionaire Formula One Group chief executive argued that Trump and Putin would work well together, and then turned to the issue of women and Formula One.
“I don’t know whether a woman would physically be able to drive an F1 car quickly, and they wouldn’t be taken seriously,” he said, before adding that he could see an increase in female chief executives in future. “Women are more competent and they don’t have massive egos.”
The comments are unlikely to make Ecclestone the poster boy for the Vote Leave campaign, despite his support for their cause. “We wish him well,” said one source from the leave campaign, after Ecclestone said he could not see any economic benefits from EU membership.
Asked by Sorrell if immigrants had made a contribution to the UK, Ecclestone said: “They have not.”
Sorrell spoke about his grandparents, who were Russian immigrants, and said he was passionately in favour of remaining in Europe because his company would otherwise “lose influence in four of our top 10 markets”.
“I know clients will close plants, jobs will go. The question is how long that will go on for,” he said.
Asked about Ecclestone’s comments, the prime minister’s spokeswoman said: “It sounds like he has set out a range of different views, so I can’t give a one-word-fits-all answer. As the prime minister has said, people will express different views on Britain’s membership of the EU as they go through the debate.
“The important thing is we are giving everyone of voting age their own say and they need to make their mind up based on the facts.”
This article was written by Anushka Asthana Political editor and Rowena Mason Political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 19th April 2016 17.18 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010