Question Time: Iceland boss calls to ‘finish it with a referendum’

Richard Walker, the managing director of Iceland, on Question Time. Photograph: BBC.

Richard Walker, the managing director of Iceland, on Question Time. Photograph: BBC. - Credit: Archant

The managing director of Iceland Foods Group slammed the 'paralysis' Brexit is causing in parliament, in a no-nonsense argument on Question Time for a People's Vote.

During the show in Halifax, where Leave won by a slim majority, Richard Walker was applauded for his remarks on how Brexit is holding up government action on everything from knife crime to the environment.

"It's become patently clear to me that parliamentarians are unable, or indeed unwilling, to put party politics aside, career ambition and ideology and actually compromise," he said. "They had their chance three times to lead us out of the darkness and stop this paralysis, and they failed. And it's appalling."

He spoke of how knife crime affected his staff "every single day" and how essential universal healthcare is to his customers - all issues that have been stalled in parliament.

Even action on the climate emergency has halted, he pointed out, adding: "I even care more about insect decline than I do about Brexit."

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The way to break out of it, he said, is via a second referendum. "The stone cold reality is that it's either no deal or no Brexit, because there is no other magical Brexit deal that can be had with just a bit more charisma," he said, in what was no doubt a covert jab at colourful Tory leadership contender Boris Johnson.

"On that basis, the choices are clear," he continued. "We should go back to the people and ask them. We started it with a referendum, I think we should probably finish it with a referendum."

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Far from a dyed-in-the-wool Remainer, Walker told the Question Time audience that he had been optimistic about what Brexit might bring.

In a BBC Radio Wales interview earlier this year, he had been against no-deal, but had added that as the fifth largest economy in the world the UK could "trade our way through it" after short-term disruption.

On Question Time, however, he said the "opportunity cost" - the benefits an investor loses when one choice is made over another - of Brexit is unacceptable to him.

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