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The 100 most powerful Brexit figures deciding Britain’s fate

Brexit power 100 - Credit: Archant

Brexit power 100: influential figures from the worlds of politics, the media, entertainment, finance and football, and from all sides of the debate

German Chancellor Angela Merkel – Credit: AP/Press Association Images

The New European’s Brexit Power 100 list brings you the most influential figures deciding the fate of Britain. They come from the worlds of politics, the media (old and new), entertainment, finance and football, and from all sides of the debate. It provides a fascinating insight into where power really lies today.

British Prime Minister Theresa May – Credit: Czech News Agency/Press Associat

1. Angela Merkel

German Chancellor

Forget Jean-Claude Juncker, forget Donald Tusk – it is Angela Merkel who wields the real power in Europe and she will frame what the Brexit terms will be. The crunch point of freedom of movement versus access to the single market is where Europe and Britain are likely to clash, but Merkel has hinted at some wriggle room. How she defines the freedom of people to move and work within Europe will shape the UK’s deal, for better or worse. Theresa May needs to convince Merkel of Britain’s continued relevance and importance post-Brexit. If, as is expected, Merkel wins a fourth term at the general election in autumn next year she will be handed a mandate to guide not only Germany but Europe through the stormy waters of Brexit and an EU in the midst of an existential crisis. Her Brexit stance could mean an emboldened Merkel has more impact on the everyday lives of Britons by the end of the decade than the Prime Minister. She also has domestic pressures trying to ensure Britain is not cut adrift. The German car market – already spooked by the emission scandal – is desperate to keep Britain in the single market. Germany sells more cars to the UK than any other country. Nevertheless, in her negotiations with May, it is the British Prime Minister who has been dealt a bad hand. Merkel holds the pack.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

2. Theresa May

Prime Minister

A quiet Remainer as Home Secretary, Theresa May sent shockwaves through the financial markets when she told the Tory party conference Britain would trigger Article 50 in March 2017. Since then the pressure has mounted over her apparent desire for a Hard Brexit and the Government being dragged into a Supreme Court tussle over whether Parliament needs to a have a say on starting the process of leaving the EU. Her Cabinet is beginning to split between Hard and Soft Brexit – and the latest variety, a Transitional Brexit – and reports from inside Number 10 suggest she is having to become increasingly autocratic, with many decisions awaiting her sole approval. She is acutely aware of the Conservatives’ history of infighting over policy on Europe and a Deloitte report claimed her ‘over-riding objective’ is keeping her party together. These spats need addressing before they become even more bitter and engulf the Government. Meanwhile, the public is growing increasingly concerned about the lack of detail in her Brexit strategy. One piece of luck she has been afforded is the lack of opposition from the Labour benches and it could be this means an early general election is too good an opportunity to ignore. At that point she would be forced to flesh out the detail of her plans for Brexit – and it could yet prove to be a turning point in Britain’s exit from the EU.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney – Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

3. Nicola Sturgeon

First Minister of Scotland

Two referendums in two years and two defeats for the Scottish National Party, but Nicola Sturgeon is more powerful than ever before. Her warnings that Scotland may need another vote on splitting from the UK have gained traction, since most people north of the border wanted to stay in the EU. Her threats could help temper May’s rush to a Hard Brexit even though Sturgeon has not enjoyed an overly warm welcome from Europe since June 23. More confident since the SNP’s stunning general election gains, Sturgeon is not afraid to stand up to May and will fight hard to derail her premiership if she does not get the deal she wants. Scotland could yet blow Brexit apart.

Mr Keir Starmer QC – Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

4. Mark Carney

Governor of the Bank of England

The Canadian – alongside members of the Monetary Policy Committee – has the job of averting a post-Brexit recession, by either cutting or raising interest rates and also by buying corporate bonds on a huge scale. That the markets responded well to the announcement that he would stay in position until 2019 proves the City and business have faith in him – even if some Brexiteer head bangers are determined to force him out because of his perceived negativity towards the Leave vote. His role is often reactionary but he has the skills and team around him to help guide the pound through the worst Brexit might throw up.

Philip Hammond – Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

5. Keir Starmer

Shadow secretary of state for exiting the EU

The Luke Skywalker of the Remain cause: the great, new hope. His legal background – former director of public prosecutions – and sharp intellect make him the PM’s most dangerous rival on the Opposition benches. Respected across the political spectrum, his conviction will sway opinion and potentially shift government thinking. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is also well aware of Starmer’s growing stature. Corbyn handed him the Brexit brief to stop accusations he was not concerned with the referendum, but in doing so he may have anointed the party’s next leader. Behind the scenes Starmer is galvanising business leaders, union chiefs, politicians and opinion formers in a bid to halt a Hard Brexit. Now he needs to do more to make his message cut through more widely. So far he has displayed a command of what is required to hold the government to account and he could be the reason the Brexiteers are forced to rethink their plans. Of course, his power will depend on his not being undermined by colleagues on Brexit.

6. Philip Hammond

Chancellor of the Exchequer

Battle lines have already been drawn in Cabinet over how Britain should leave the EU – and Hammond is echoing business leaders’ calls for a Soft Brexit. A seemingly quiet man, the chancellor is prepared to make tough decisions and is not afraid of upsetting Brexiteers. He has already been attacked by the ring-wing media and politicians who want a Hard Brexit for his ‘relentless negativity’ towards leaving the EU. And he is becoming a tricky customer for May to deal with – not the first time the PM has had to cope with a difficult neighbour. The financial impact of Brexit will determine a great deal of how May approaches the talks and therefore Hammond has been handed a vital role.

David Neuberger – Credit: AP/Press Association Images

7. Facebook

Social media giant

Accusations levelled at Facebook that fake news spread through the site swung the US election for Trump hurt founder Mark Zuckerberg deeply. Similar claims have been made about a lot of Brexit posts shared on social media. This trend could prompt the 32-year-old to act to tighten rules on how Facebook deals with posts claiming to be news. But beyond the scandal the social media platform is now among the big opinion formers on the planet. If a successful Brexit counter-attack is to be launched Facebook will play its part. Corporately, it will play a bellwether role too, with much riding on future decisions on where to invest and expand.

Dave Lewis, chief executive officer of Tesco Plc – Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images

8. David Neuberger

Supreme Court Judge

The UK’s top judge will lead an 11-strong team in the Supreme Court to decide if the Government needs Parliament to rubber stamp the triggering of Article 50. The outcome of the hearing will shape how Brexit plays out in 2017 – if the Government wins expect things to move quickly towards a Hard Brexit, but if Parliament gets its say everything is up for grabs. The House of Commons will not block Brexit, but the more it is debated and argued the more the opinion of the public is likely to shift. And when this happens Number 10 will be forced to act. For Neuberger it is likely that this momentous ruling will be one of his last high-profile outings. Just days after his wife landed him in some hot water by tweeting anti-Brexit comments Neuberger announced he would step down in summer 2017.

Nigel Farage – Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

9. Dave Lewis

Tesco CEO

As ‘Marmitegate’ showed, the supermarkets are right at the heart of the battle for what type of Brexit Britain will get. He has urged suppliers not to punish shoppers by hiking prices and – although the firm remained neutral during campaigning – expect him to be a flag bearer for his customers. Lewis is the first outsider to take the helm at Tesco since founder Jack Cohen started selling groceries on an east London market stall in 1919 – and now he has become Britain’s shopkeeper. Many retailers are warning of price hikes rising to as much as 10% on some goods and in his bid to be competitive Lewis can put huge pressure on Number 10 to try to protect the pound – and the nation’s pocket. Theresa May will be acutely aware of how quickly public opinion can change when the prices on the shelves start to rise.

10. Nigel Farage

Former UKIP leader

The soon-to-be former UKIP leader always was bigger than the party he helped build, but now he has achieved his political life goal of steering Britain out of the EU he shows few signs of retirement. After the Leave vote he said he ‘wanted his life back’ but Farage lives for the scrap and the Prime Minister will need an astute strategy to deal with the man the American’s call Mr Brexit. It could be his relationship with Donald Trump that could cause May the most trouble – already the president-elect has suggested his alt-right buddy Farage should be the UK ambassador in Washington. But although Number 10 won’t be bounced into finding Farage a job, May does not want to jeopardise the special relationship by pointing out the utter stupidity of Trump’s suggestion. The right-wing is on the rise both in Europe and the US and this offers Farage a unique opportunity to continue his fight in the UK. He is influential in Parliament – many Tories believe he should be welcomed back in to the fold – and on the streets, and he is not going away. If he doesn’t think Britain is getting the Brexit he wants, we will soon here about it, whether from the benches of the House of Lords, or from the head of a street march.

11. Donald Trump

US President-elect

A big fan of Brexit, for what it’s worth. But exactly what it is worth is the great unknown. The jolt that Brexit will cause to international trade could be nothing compared to what Trump might unleash, once in the Oval Office. However for the time being the Leave camp is happily cosying up with America’s newly emboldened alt-right in the hope that the trade deals Trump is ripping up could be replaced by even warmer trading relations with the UK. His suggestion that Farage should be the UK’s US ambassador spooked the diplomatic world and left Number 10 in the impossible position of not wanting to empower Farage or annoy the soon-to-be leader of the free world. He famously said his election would be ‘Brexit plus, plus, plus’, but what that means for Britain and our relationship with Europe and the US is yet to be seen.

12. Rupert Murdoch

Chairman and CEO News Corporation

Still the world’s most powerful media mogul. His loudest voice in the UK – The Sun – is undimmed in its support for Brexit, but it is far from his only means of leverage. Murdoch’s great power is his extraordinary influence in Downing Street, no matter what the political affiliation of the incumbent. PMs have a history of craven behaviour in front of him.

13. David Davis

Secretary of state for exiting the European Union

One of parliament’s longest standing Eurosceptics, David Davis was handed his dream job by May – masterminding Britain’s exit from the EU. But his initial enthusiasm and confidence seem to be waning as the full extent of the task in front of him becomes clear. Soon after the Leave vote he outlined his view that Europe would have to compromise over access to the single market once it became clear ‘we are not going to budge on control of our borders’. Just a few months later that simplistic view of how Brexit could play out seems highly unlikely. Because he will not shift from his view that Britain should forge ahead with Brexit, he is more exposed to failures than any other politician in Cabinet. May and Davis have a complicated relationship – they clashed over civil liberties when she was Home Secretary – and the PM may sacrifice him if she needs to shift her Brexit direction.

14. Len McCluskey

Unite leader

The union firebrand told his members to vote Remain to protect workers’ rights and will continue the fight at whatever cost. The unions are ready to take on May – her treatment of the Police Federation when Home Secretary sent a chill through workers’ organisations – and McCluskey will happily send his troops over the top if leaving the EU threatens rights, conditions or wages. If Brexit brings strikes then it will be at McCluskey’s instigation.

15. The National Health Service

Without the support of immigrant nurses, doctors and other workers the NHS would collapse. Even with them, the financial black hole left by Brexit may well lead to the same outcome. NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens will be quick to highlight the dangers facing the already creaking service and Downing Street will not want to be seen to be damaging the beloved NHS. As with mass strikes, serious disruption to the NHS would mean all political bets are off. Meanwhile, of course, the service still awaits the £350m a week it was promised.

16. Tony Blair

Former prime minister

The centre-left’s most successful politician ever, Blair appears determined to make his mark on the Brexit process, and Britain has never needed him more. Rumours abound he is planning an anti-Brexit campaign and Blair has already – writing in The New European – called upon the 48% to ‘mobilise’ and ‘organise’ under the rallying cry ‘we are the insurgents now’. Brexiteers will throw the toxicity of the Iraq war at Blair but their squeals are only because they fear him so deeply. He knows how to capture the imagination of the centre ground – something May has yet to master.

17. Sir Jeremy John Heywood

Cabinet secretary

The highest ranked civil servant in the country, Sir Jeremy is the man at the sharp end of making Brexit work. He has an intimate knowledge of the machinations of government and power. The nitty-gritty of Brexit will fall squarely on Whitehall and the support of the civil service will be vital.

18. Amber Rudd

Home secretary

Considered a turncoat by many, this once ardent Remainer provoked fury with her tough stance on immigration, even if her most extreme ideas have ended up in the long grass. Immigration, and the intrinsically-linked economy, are the two issues that will shape Brexit more than any others.

19. Vladimir Putin

Russian president

Whether it really is, or not, Russia is once again acting like a super power as a result of the leadership – some might say megalomania – of Putin. The Kremlin’s attempts to sow discord and division in Western society – evident during the US election – is clear and Putin will be delighted at the way the UK is currently split down the middle. His military chest-beating has spooked both Europe and NATO, .and with Trump’s disdain for the North Atlantic treaty, serious proposals for an EU army could become reality. He has created the European mood music, against which Brexit must be played out.

20. The Walloons

The people of the Walloon region in Belgium showed the power that Europe’s regional governments have to jeopardise international trade agreements when they threatened to derail the EU’s long-awaited deal with Canada. As Britain looks to strike deals wherever it can find them, it will have to beware the Walloons and their like.

21. Paul Dacre

Editor, Daily Mail

Has been at the helm of the Daily Mail since 1992 and still stamps his will on every single page of the paper. Number 10 might not admit it, but May and her team will imagine how every Brexit move they make might play out in the Mail, with its supposed ability to influence middle England. There is a feeling in some quarters, however, that he may have overplayed his hand recently, with the ‘Enemies of the People’ front and absurdly upbeat coverage of Brexit. Is that magical connection with middle England on the wane?

22. Alan Milburn

Former cabinet minister

The apparent mastermind of the soon-to-be launched campaign for a second referendum, chief conspirator Milburn has already secured some impressive names – and funding. If received well the group could grow in stature in 2017.

23. Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat leader

The Liberal Democrats desperately needed a cause – and now they have one. Tim Farron was picked as leader from a very small pool but he has stuck his head above the parapet with his call for a second referendum. Although largely ignored in Number 10 at present, a growing membership – boosted by his Brexit stance – and improving results at the ballot box will bolster Farron’s influence. And the Lib Dems remain a force in the Lords.

24. Alastair Campbell

Former Number 10 director of communications

Remain’s chief agitator-at-large. With his impeccable connections and networking ability, he is still one of the most influential figures in UK politics and any group opposing Brexit need Campbell on side. Increasingly vocal and insistent that the fight goes on; he takes a leaf out of John McEnroe’s book: ‘show me a good loser… and I’ll show you a loser’.

25. Richard Branson

Founder of Virgin Group

The billionaire aggressively backed the Remain camp – and since June 23 has called for a second referendum. His business acumen and huge global profile mean he has access to many of the world’s most powerful people. This, coupled with his huge personal wealth, make him a force to be reckoned with. Reports linking him to a Blairite movement to oppose Brexit have been denied, but if he was to lend his financial clout the reverberations would be felt across Europe – and most forcefully in Number 10.

26. Jean Claude Juncker

President of the European Commission

He blames Brexit on ’40 years of lies’ about the EU by British politicians and is keen to be seen to take a hardline with Britain. With Tusk he will prove to be a serious irritant to May’s government. Not higher in the list because Europe’s real power lies with Merkel.

27. Donald Tusk

President of the European Council

At the forefront of Europe’s planned hardline negotiations with the UK, Tusk has already warned Number 10 not to expect any compromise on the free movement of people. In an apparent bid to make an example of Britain, he has also stated that it will be ‘Hard Brexit or no Brexit’. Merkel’s views will prove to be the more influential, but Tusk will be looking to lob a few grenades towards Britain’s Brexiteers.

28. Gary Lineker

Football legend and television presenter

By taking on Twitter (and the right-wing press) over migrants the former England and Tottenham striker has become an unlikely hero of the Remain camp. He has more Twitter followers than the combined readership of The Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, and the power to reach the man on the street in a way that the Remain campaign conspicuously failed to do.

29. Lionel Barber

Editor, Financial Times

Still the bible of business and the City the FT, like most of its readers, wanted Britain to remain in the EU. Now the paper is echoing the fears and hopes of the business elite, and will be heard loud and clear in Downing Street. Earlier this year Barber was made a Chevalier in the French Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur for his ‘contribution to high-quality journalism, and his ‘positive role in the European debate’ – much to the fury of Brexiteers. Expect this to continue at the FT, and for it to become an even more powerful pro-European voice.

30. John Mcdonnell

Shadow chancellor

A left-wing bruiser with the unwavering backing of the obstreperous Momentum, McDonnell is as unpredictable as he is hardline. He has described leaving the EU as an ‘enormous opportunity’ and is as responsible as anyone for the mixed-messages coming from his party on the issue, which conceal – though barely – wider tensions. His influence derives from the uncertainty he creates about Labour’s position: something which helps the Government, but does the country no favours.

31. Anna Soubry

Conservative MP for Broxtowe Gobby

Tory extraordinaire and brilliantly biting with it, Soubry is one of the few Remainers who has grown in stature, despite defeat, and is a constant thorn in the Government’s side, from the backbenches.

32. Xi Jinping

President of the People’s Republic of China

The Cameron-Osborne nexus was in thrall to China and what it could offer the UK economy. May’s pause on the Hinkley Point deal suggested that things were seen slightly differently now. But with China seen as the most important high-growth market, to fill the gap left by a possible departure from the single market, the importance of President Xi to British ministers has only got greater.

33. Stephen Kinnock

Labour MP for Aberavon

Nailed his colours to the mast with his involvement in the attempt to oust Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader and equally headstrong in the European cause. Confident about his place within the party and unafraid to challenge the leader, he is intelligently pro-European; dismissive of calls for a second referendum but keenly articulating a sense of dismay, as the Brexit camp’s lies become clear. Measured, respected within the party, and playing the long game.

34. JK Rowling


The multi-millionaire Harry Potter creator has been one of the leading pro-EU voices on social media. In 2008 she donated £1 million for Gordon Brown’s Labour Party, but in recent years her political activism has become more public with her opposition to Brexit and Scottish independence. Her stance may be losing her some Potter fans, but is gaining her great affection among Remainers. She also has an ability to reach out to young people that few others do.

35. Boris Johnson

Foreign secretary

The bumbling brains behind Brexit, but Boris has been sidelined on the issue since May took power. The PM is sensitive to Johnson’s popularity in the party so his insight is valued – but he is on a very tight leash.

36. Liam Fox

International trade secretary

Another of the so-called Three Brexiteers who has been effectively neutered by May, the real architect of Brexit. His early bluster about trade deals and a quick, easy divorce from the EU have left him looking rather daft, but May still values his input. He will be hoping to flex his muscles again in 2017 by building trade deals that offer an alternative.

37. Lloyd Blankfein

Goldman Sachs chief executive

Leavers claim stories about firms relocating were scaremongering – but there remains plenty of companies considering whether the UK is the best place for their HQs post-Brexit. Blankfein will have the final say over whether Goldman Sachs relocates – and could spark a flood. A similar dilemma faces US chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Jamie Dimon who has threatened to take 1,000 jobs away from London. If they left even the most hardened of Brexiteers would have to reconsider.

38. Sundar Pichai

Google chief executive

Tech giant Google’s commitment to their sprawling new London HQ appeared to be some light among the Brexit gloom. But it came with a clear warning from Pichai, who said the government’s expected crackdown on immigration does not fit with Google’s ideals. This will have been noted in Number 10 – losing Google would be a catastrophe for the Government.

39. Paul Polman

Unilever chief executive

The Dutchman will have a huge influence on the price we pay for everyday goods like Marmite and Colman’s mustard. Unilever recently appeared to lose in a spat over prices with Tesco but it would be unwise to bet against this shrewd chief executive and his willingness to squeeze Britain’s pockets rather than risk his bottomline.

40. Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leader

The fact that most of his own MPs asked him to quit in the wake of the referendum, and the sneaking suspicion he actually voted Leave have handed May’s Government a get out of jail free card. His campaigning during the campaign was heavily criticised and his deafening silence since mean the PM was unafraid to try to push through a quickie EU divorce. Put brutally, Corbyn’s abject failure to provide a robust opposition to Brexit is a stain upon his leadership. As with McDonnell – who is at least more forceful – Corbyn derives his place on the list not from his leadership, but from how the lack of it is creating opportunities for others. With Corbyn as leader May is a shoo-in at the next general election, which takes a huge amount of pressure off Number 10 and empowers them to forge ahead with Hard Brexit.

41. Christine Lagarde

Managing director of the International Monetary Fund

Will set the tone for how the impact of Brexit is seen worldwide. Facts are important, but so are perceptions. And whether Brexit is trailed with benign forecasts or stark warnings will make all the difference.

42. Matthew Freud

Head of Freud Communications

Although details remain sketchy, Freud is said to be the public relations guru working with a Blairite group who oppose Brexit. As a friend of both Blair and Cameron his influence spans political divides. No serious political campaign to challenge the government could ignore Freud’s undoubted nous.

43. Richard Scudamore

Executive chairman of the Premier league

The architect of the world’s most lucrative football league, Scudamore backed remain because of the available of top talent it has allowed to flood into the English game. How the current freedom for players to hop from country-to-country between the big clubs may change is yet unclear but Scudamore and all the big clubs will lobby to keep the present arrangement.

44. Robert Chote

Chairman of the office for Budget responsibility

The OBR revised its pre-referendum prediction that GDP would rise 2.2% next year, to just 1.4%. Before the vote, such experts were roundly dismissed by Brexiteers. As realities sink in, it will become harder and harder to do so. Rather than the country having had enough of experts, they could just be the people who save it.

45. Sadiq Khan

Mayor of London

The only Labour politician with the Midas touch in 2016, he is the custodian of pro-Remain London and cheerleader for the city. A strong advocate for a Soft Brexit and already drawing up plans to mitigate the impact of Brexit on the capital. May will be aware of his support in the city.

46. Nick Clegg

MP for Sheffield Hallam

Only recently a political pariah, Brexit has given the former Liberal Democrat leader a potential political rebirth. With his impeccable Brussels connections, the multilingual Europhile was one of the first out of the blocks in the anti-Brexit movement. And with his former deputy prime minister credentials, his views still carry clout.

47. AC grayling, Master of New College of the Humanities

Grayling’s tireless charge against flawed Brexiteer arguments has made the philosopher the intellectual leader of the push against leaving the EU.

48. Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill

Joint chiefs of staff to the Prime Minister

While Timothy avidly campaigned for Leave, Hill’s tweets before the referendum suggested support for the EU. However, whatever their differences on the matter, the pair are inextricably linked when developing and maintaining a strategy. They are arguably the most powerful unelected people in British politics and have not only the ear but the respect of the PM. The winner of the battle between Timothy’s radical, free-thinking conservatism and Hill’s more pragmatic approach will become clear in May’s Brexit strategy.

49. Sir Clive Cowdrey

Insurance millionaire

The founder of the Resolution Foundation think tank has donated an undisclosed amount to a campaign for a second EU referendum once the terms of Brexit are known. His pockets are deep and because of that his influence could grow.

50. Michel Barnier

European Commission Brexit negotiator

The finance-savvy Frenchman who will lead the European side in negotiations. As commissioner for the Internal Market and Financial Services, Barnier was dubbed ‘the most dangerous man in Europe’ when he took on bankers and championed a cap on their bonuses, so is likely to alarm the City. There are few with a better understanding of the single market, so he will be a formidable figure across the negotiating table.

51. Guy Verhofstadt

EU Brexit negotiator

Less important than Barnier but still a key figure in discussions, this diehard Europhile is hell-bent on making the Brexit process as tough as possible because he believes the whole EU project is now in danger.

52. David Lammy

Labour MP for Tottenham Or ‘sore loser David Lammy’, or ‘bitter David Lammy’, as he is now described by the Daily Express.

He was the first MP to call for a parliamentary vote on Article 50 before Brexit. His attacks on the process have focused on what leaving the EU will mean to those on lower incomes. As the truth about how people’s everyday lives will be impacted becomes ever clearer, his arguments will gather pace and Lammy will grow in influence.

53. Robert Peston

ITV political editor

His Sunday morning show may not have the style of BBC1’s Marr Show but Peston remains active and influential in and around Westminster. His years reporting on business, economics and politics make his contacts books one of the best in journalism and senior politicians will look to use him to attack the government on Brexit. Now known as much for his acerbic tweets as his eccentric vocal delivery.

54. Arron Banks

Co-founder of Leave.EU and UKIP donor

Has spoken of how the right needs a movement similar to the left’s Momentum and has resources to fund a new wildcard party that would further destabilise an already fragile Westminster.

55. Daniel Hannan

Conservative MEP

A torch bearer for internationalist, conservative Euroscepticism, who stirred up the Tory grassroots and was one of the most influential figures behind the referendum result. Because his brand of Brexit is now just one of the possibilities (or ‘impossibilities’, as critics would put it), expect him to re-group and begin the fight again.

56. Marine le Pen

French leader of the Front National

Currently polling neck-and-neck for next year’s presidential election. Whether Le Pen wins or loses, she is already setting the tone and the agenda for political debate in Europe – and that shapes Brexit. Hence her position, higher than rivals and other European leaders.

57. Gareth Southgate

Possible England football manager

England’s ignominious exit from Euro 2016 at the hands of Iceland perfectly summed up the Brexit summer. Things since then have hardly got much better, but improvements under Southgate could just give a transformational boost to a battered, Brexit-bound country. If he is appointed England manager he will be uniquely placed to improve the nation’s mood – a political elixir Number 10 will hope to piggy back on.

58. Chuka Umunna

Labour MP for Streatham

As Labour began a long summer of in-fighting on June 24 Umunna was immediately in front of the television cameras vowing to fight Brexit. His grassroots Vote Leave Watch campaign is a vital debunking tool that has already left some Leavers red-faced. He plays well in the media, even if his support in the Parliamentary Labour Party isn’t all it could be.

59. Gerard Lyons


The former chief economic advisor to Boris Johnson was an influential Brexiteer who helped convince his boss to bat for Leave and still has the ear of the Foreign Secretary. He is widely listened to in the City and has long argued for more free trade between Britain and emerging markets and the former Commonwealth countries.

60. Greg Clark

Business secretary

The MP for Tunbridge Wells is standing squarely behind the Chancellor in his bid to talk the PM down from the cliff edge of a Hard Brexit. Hammond is a vital figure, but without the political entourage that many senior MPs accumulate, and get strength from. Clark’s support adds more credibility to Hammond’s cause.

61. Paul Nuttall

UKIP’s leader

Brexit throws up an existential crisis for the party and its travails since the vote have caused much mockery. But it is not necessarily a finished force. Its survival is likely to fall to Nuttall, who will agitate for a clean break with the EU, while menacing Labour in its former heartlands.

62. Matthew Elliot

Editor-at-large of Brexit Central

He may not be a household name, but Elliott is one of the most formidable political strategists in the country and an unsung titan of the Brexit cause, as the chief executive of Vote Leave. After the referendum Elliot launched Brexit Central, pledging to promote the positive side of leaving the EU. The 38-year-old likes to go about his business without fuss but his influence is set to grow.

63. Shinz? Abe

Japanese PM

In September, the Japanese government issued an unprecedented warning about the possible harmful effects on the UK of Brexit, including the departure of Japanese firms, who have massive interests here. Since then, Nissan has had sufficient undisclosed assurances to announce it will stay, so that warning was clearly heeded. Expect far more of this sort of diplomatic pressure.

64. Gina Miller

Leader of legal challenge to the authority of the government over Article 50

Has done more than almost anyone to try to put the brakes of the government’s rush towards Hard Brexit. The investment manager’s legal challenge to ensure Parliament was required to vote before invoking Article 50 provided some much-needed hope for the Remain camp.

65. Carlos Ghosn

CEO of Nissan

The first of the big UK car makers to strike a deal with the government, Ghosn had threatened to stop making a new model of the successful Qashqai in Sunderland without ‘assurances’ over Brexit. Clearly he got what he wanted but no one really knows what the deal is. Whatever it was, everyone else now wants it.

66. François Fillon

French presidential candidate

The former French prime minister, Fillon is the leading candidate to be president of France once Brexit actually comes to pass. Although critical of the EU, he wants France to remain which would settle many EU nerves. He wants Brexit to be ‘serene’ but ‘fast’.

67. Nicky Morgan

Conservative MP for Loughborough

A fully-paid up member of the Tory awkward squad, Morgan is making more waves now she has been banished to the backbenches than she ever did as Education Secretary. She has emerged as one of Brexit’s most vocal, eloquent and fearless critics

68. David Jones

Brexit minister

One of Davis’ most important foot soldiers in the House of Commons, and the eyes and ears of the Brexit department in Westminster.

69. Baroness Shriti Vadera

Chairman of Santander UK

Called the queen of the City’s Brexit response by the FT, Baroness Vadera came to prominence as Gordon Brown’s backroom adviser. After the death of her friend Jo Cox, she spoke out saying that she loved ‘the Britain that can nurture immigrants like me’.

70. Lord Ashcroft

Businessman and pollster

The former Tory party deputy chairman is worth keeping onside – just ask David Cameron. He voted Brexit and Number 10 will be only too aware of the trouble he can cause with his billions if she doesn’t deliver.

71. António Pedro Dos Santos Ssimões

Chief executive of HSBC

The Portuguese-born, London-based banker holds the reigns of Britain’s biggest retail bank. HSBC also employ thousands of workers both in the UK and the EU. In June, the bank seemingly warned against Hard Brexit, releasing a statement saying jobs would only be moved out of London in an ‘extreme’ Brexit situation.

72. Huw Evans

Director general, association of British insurers

The insurance industry employs some of the most aggressive lobbying techniques in big business – and donates millions to the Conservatives. Expect the ABI’s demands for ‘retaining the ability to passport out of and into the UK’ and ‘protection for its existing EU employees’ to be taken very serious in Downing Street and beyond. Evans is the man at the top of Europe’s biggest insurance market which means he – along with CEOs from the big spending insurances firms – will be heard loud and clear in Downing Street.

73. Ameet Gill and Paul Stephenson


Cameron’s former strategy chief Gill and director of communications for Vote Leave Stephenson are the brains behind Hanbury Strategy, a new lobbying firm. Big business is desperate for insight and intel and will flock to this firm – which of them pay big will be instrumental in how they use their influence.

74. Viktor Orbán

Hungarian PM

Difficult, eurosceptical and anti-immigrant, Orbán has told the other EU leaders to ‘stop moaning’ about Brexit. He and May met in Downing Street earlier this month and the UK-Hungary Business Council has been launched. How the EU reacts to Orbán could influence how the other leaders deal with Britain before Brexit.

75. Katherine Viner

Editor, The Guardian

The Guardian is not the first newspaper the PM reaches for over breakfast. But Viner – who took over in the editor’s chair last year – knows that the paper retains the power to motivate its readership into action. The Guardian’s coverage of the Labour Party – and where Viner chooses its full backing should go – could prove to be its most important contribution to the Brexit debate.

76. Enda Kenny

Irish PM

Desperate to keep Britain in the EU and onside. Kenny will remain an ally in any negotiations, not least because of the economic consequences of Ireland’s largest trading partner leaving the union, but also the longstanding cultural ties – and a shared land border. Kenny recently chided EU leaders, telling them not to ‘lose the plot’ in negotiations, and said that Ireland intends to keep its good relations with Britain.

77. Matthew Parris


The former Conservative politician has been described as the ‘pre-eminent columnist of his generation’ and is perhaps the most-read among Tory MPs. Unfailingly morose on the subject of Brexit calling it a ‘national humiliation’ and warning Britain is heading for a bigger crisis than Suez, he has become a salient voice for the Remainers on the right and – we hope – a sobering influence on many Leavers.

78. Arlene Foster

First Minister of Northern Ireland

The DUP campaigned for Britain to Leave the EU – but they were out of step with the people of Northern Ireland who wanted to remain. Number 10 is now hoping Foster – who claims Brexit is a huge ‘economic opportunity’ for the UK – can convince the population. But amid economic worries and worsening relations with Dublin she has a huge task ahead of her.

79. Tim Martin

Chairman of JD Wetherspoon

Among the most high profile business figures to back Brexit. And his campaigning has not let up since the vote. Says his pub chain – of almost 1,000 outlets – could stop selling drinks from other European countries if the EU keep up a ‘bullying’ approach to negotiations.

80. Carsten Kengeter

Chief executive of Deutsche Borse

Assuming Deutsche Borse’s merger with the London Stock Exchange goes through, Kengeter will be one of the City’s most powerful figures. The continued success of the merged business will be critical to the fortunes of the City in the next few years and he will be one of the loudest voices demanding stability from the Government through the Brexit process.

81. James o’Brien

Radio talk show host

His LBC phone-in show has become a must listen for politicos with both sides of the Brexit argument represented amid a flurry of claim, counter-claim and raised voices. Westminster tunes in daily for a dose of what the average voter thinks.

82. Ralph Speth

Chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover

The firm has noted that some European shoppers are boycotting its luxury cars post-Brexit. It will make decisions on future investment in the next few years but has warned that it will have to reconsider whether it will carry on spending money in Britain. Losing this most British of brands would be toxic for May.

83. Frauke Petry

Lead of Alternative for Germany (AFD)

Although unlikely to challenge Merkel for Chancellor, Petry is expected to make a breakthrough at the general election next year. How big a breakthrough could impact how Merkel aligns her party on the political spectrum and could, in turn, influence her think on Brexit. Petry – like Le Pen in France – is setting the tone for European debate.

84. Simon Collins

KPMG UK Chairman

The head of the UK’s third biggest accountancy firm but, more importantly, an opinion former. KPMG often ‘take the temperature’ of their clients which can heap pressure on lawmakers. KPMG is beloved by the broadsheet press and the firm command column inches with every statement they make – as chairman Collins as they power to not only reshape the Brexit argument but to wreck government policy.

85. Hilary Benn

Head of Brexit Commons Committee

His outrage at Corbyn’s performance on the Remain campaign trail sparked the Labour leadership battle, but Benn’s hopes he would be front and centre of a rejuvenated opposition were scuppered by a burgeoning left-wing membership. As the head of the Brexit Commons Committee he will be given a strong platform, but he is left wondering what might have been.

86. Mike Thompson

Chief Executive of Association of the British Pharmaceutical industry

One of the most powerful lobbyists in Britain who has top-level access to Britain’s political top brass. Already the ABPI has said that medical and research sectors must have access to EU talent and easy trade agreements and these demands will weigh heavy on May as she prepares her Brexit strategy.

87. Barclay Brothers

Owners Telegraph Media group

The Telegraph sometimes seemed keener on Remain than its readers, but eventually plumped for Leave. More considered in its coverage than the other pro-Brexit papers, owned by brothers David and Frederick, it could yet provide an important outlet for Soft Brexit voices – if readers will allow it.

88. Narendra Modi

Indian PM

India, like China, looms large in the imaginations of Brexiteers, who dream of a golden era of global trade, and Theresa May has already paid a visit to the sub continent. The reality, however, may be very different, and it is Modi who holds many of the strongest cards.

89. Roger Bootle


A mainstay of pressure group Economists for Brexit with a great forecasting track record, Lyons was the chief economist at HSBC before setting up Capital Economics, which has made him very rich. Very well connected politically and in the media.

90. Tim Montgomerie


Co-founder of Conservative Home and once described as ‘one of the most influential Tories outside of Cabinet’, Montgomerie did more than most to modernise the Conservatives after John Major. He quit the Tories in protest at Cameron’s renegotiation, ratcheting the pressure on the then PM. May will also be reading his column carefully.

91. Tanit Koch

Editor of German tabloid, Bild

Arguably the most influential journalist in continental Europe. The very pro-British tabloid editor implored the UK to remain with a stroke-of-genius front page on June 23 that said the Germans would even admit the ball crossed the line in the 1966 World Cup final and stop making fun of Prince Charles’ ears. Sadly it proved unsuccessful, but Koch’s views on how Britain should be treated by Merkel will not go unheeded in the Bundestag.

92. Piers Morgan

Journalist and television presenter

He may be divisive but Morgan’s ability to bring the brutal interview techniques of a tabloid hack to the breakfast television sofa means people pay attention. As well as his early-morning gig, the former Daily Mirror editor also writes a column for MailOnline which he punts shamelessly to his 5.2 million Twitter followers. Politicians will have to face Morgan on Good Morning Britain and face tough questions about Brexit – none of them will relish the challenge.

93. Andrew Tyrie

Chairman, Treasury Select Committee

As the chairman of the influential Treasury Select Committee Tyrie is among the most powerful backbenchers and will be encouraged to scrutinise Brexit’s financial implications.

94. Zanny Minton Beddoes

Editor, The Economist

As editor of the most high-brow of the British news magazines, Beddoes is responsible for a powerful critique of Brexit.

95. Vicky Pryce

Economist and former joint head of the government economic service

One of the most respected economists in Europe, Pryce warned back in January that the ‘only prospect of improvement on forecasts for 2016 would be a clear and overwhelming vote to stay in’ – oh dear. Her forecasting is much admired meaning she is listened to across the board.

96. Lily Allen

Pop star

Prone to emotional outbursts – especially on Twitter – Allen’s youthful anger has come to represent the feelings of a generation who feel as European as they do British.

97. Ed Miliband

Former Labour leader

Many blame Miliband for the current fortunes of the Labour Party but, to his credit, it appears he is not simply going to drift away from Westminster. Although not the leader Remainers might hope for, he is providing at least some opposition to the government, and his presence on the list says as much about the weakness of the Brexit challenge coming from elsewhere on the Labour benches as it does his own contribution

98. Guido Fawkes

Right-wing political website

A former PR for acid house parties, Paul Staines launched Guido Fawkes in 2004 and it quickly became one of the most influential voices in British politics, and a favourite of MPs. The blog is, effectively, the unofficial fanzine of the Houses of Parliament. Wildly pro-Brexit, the site has positioned itself as the scourge of the ‘remoaners’.

99. Michael Gove

MP for Surrey Heath

One of the most significant architects of the Leave victory, but for a series of disastrous decisions in the summer, Gove could have been in the top 10. As it is, he barely makes the top 100. There is surely a metaphor for Brexit in there somewhere.

100. Rexit


The New European’s own mascot makes the list as a representative of all those bewildered, frustrated and exasperated by the direction in which Britain is headed. His passive anguish is emblematic of the feelings of the 48% – and, we strongly suspect, a growing number of the 52%. But they need not remain passive. The fight goes on!

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