The Brexit vote was a negative shock but the tragedy no longer looks like a 'fait accompli,' George Soros said in a speech at the European Parliament on Thursday, and it has created "positive momentum for a stronger and better Europe".
He added that over four million people have petitioned Parliament to hold a second referendum. "By the time the Parliamentary debate on this petition takes place, it is not inconceivable that more people will have signed the petition than voted for Brexit," Soros said.
Soros further added that while the popular vote cannot be reversed, a signature collecting campaign could transform the political landscape for EU membership.
"This approach could then be replicated in the rest of the European Union by forming a movement that would seek to save the EU by profoundly restructuring it. I am convinced that as the consequences of Brexit unfold in the months ahead, more and more people will be eager to join this movement," Soros said, adding that the EU should not penalize British voters while ignoring their legitimate concerns about the "deficiencies of the European Union"
Brexit has not only created an opening to reinvent the European Union but has also aggravated two looming dangers, he said.
"First, it unleashed a crisis in the financial markets, comparable in severity only to 2007/8," he said, adding that while this has been unfolding in slow motion, Brexit will accelerate it and reinforce deflationary trends that were already prevalent.
Aggravating the refugee crisis is the second danger according to Soros. "The EU faces growing military threats. Our external enemies have been emboldened, posing new, as-yet unfathomable dangers in various parts of the wider region, that are also liable to aggravate the refugee crisis."
Adding that the vote for Brexit was a "great shock for him" Soros said the disintegration of the EU seemed practically inevitable last Friday morning, immediately after the vote.
However, he said that while the referendum result was a negative surprise, the spontaneous response to it was a positive one. "People on both sides of the referendum, and most importantly those who didn't even vote—particularly young people under 35—have become mobilized. This is the kind of grass roots involvement that the European Union has never been able to generate before."
Discussing the refugee crisis in detail, Soros said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel showed great moral leadership when she opened Germany's doors wide to refugees. However, Soros identified three main flaws with the decision. It was not truly European but rather an initiative led by Germany. It was also severely underfunded and not voluntary.
Soros said in order to build a coherent European asylum policy, the EU should start by addressing the dire lack of financial resources and by building trust among each other.
"Without sufficient funding, the EU cannot meet the expectations of the European people. And because it fails to perform the functions it was designed for, the Union loses its legitimacy."