Billionaire businessman, Sir Richard Branson has secretly met with Tory leadership contender Theresa May to reiterate his calls for a second referendum following a narrow vote to leave the European Union (EU). The Leave camp took 51.9% of the vote, compared to 48.1% of the British public who expressed their desire to stay in the bloc on 23 June.
Branson expressed economic concerns over the outcome of the vote, warning that "thousands and thousands of jobs will be lost as a result of this" just days after the result. An unidentified source close to Branson said his meeting with May should not be misconstrued as an endorsement of her candidacy for the Conservative leadership crown, according to a Sky News report.
"There is no political endorsement and there was no ask of her beyond the need for politicians to show leadership," the source was quoted as saying. "Richard simply explained why he felt there needed to be more details on what Brexit means and for the options to be debated in parliament."
As she launched her leadership campaign, the Home Secretary public rejected the prospect of a second referendum. While May backed the remain camp, she maintained "Brexit means Brexit" and said the will of the people must be respected.
"The campaign was fought, the vote was held, turnout was high, and the public gave their verdict," said May. "There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door and no second referendum.
"The country voted to leave the European Union and it is the duty of the government and parliament to make sure we do just that," added May.
During an appearance on ITV's Good Morning Britain on 27 June, the founder and chairman of Virgin Group said his company had lost about a third of its value as stocks plunged. He added that a deal involving 3,000 jobs had to be cancelled in the wake of the referendum outcome.
Writing about the impact of the decision on 27 June on the Virgin website, Branson stated: "The decision over the UK's future was based on false promises that pushed a minority of the UK's total voting population (17 million out of 46 million) to vote the way it did.
"Two years before Brexit will even become reality, according to EU rules, it is already having massive consequences on the UK economy, and on society. Brexit has fractured the country more than any other event in recent memory."