Weeks before Britain votes on whether to remain in the European Union (EU), Qatar’s former prime minister has said he is against the idea of a “Brexit.”
The billionaire businessman Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, who was also Qatar’s foreign minister, told Reuters this week that leaving the union could cause Britain economic trouble.
He said that if the vote passed, there could be an exodus of multinational companies to mainland Europe to access the single market.
The UK will hold its referendum on whether to withdraw from the EU on June 23.
Sheikh Hamad, who is known colloquially by his initials HBJ, also formerly managed Qatar’s powerful sovereign wealth fund.
The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) controls more than $100 billion in assets in the UK, and owns major London landmarks including Harrods department store and The Shard tower.
Keen to keep Europe’s economy stable, HBJ pointed out that the UK would need to undertake “endless trade negotiations” with its former partners to get back the privileges it currently has.
“In the Middle East we all want to see a strong Europe, and believe that economic integration is key to making it stronger. In fact, we believe the UK should not only be part of the EU but should lead it,” he said in a statement to Reuters.
“In the UK, the best predictions of important events always come from the high street bookmakers, who always seem to get it right. Somehow, the odds seem to be comfortably against Brexit. We sincerely hope they get it right this time again.”
The debate around the referendum has become heated in the UK, particularly in recent weeks as the day of the vote looms.
The results of two Guardian/ICM polls published this week shows 52 percent of the British public are in favor of leaving the EU, while 48 percent of those surveyed are against it.
Sheikh Hamad is the latest in a line of world leaders and influential figures to publicly voice their opinions on the issue.
He joins US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who have both previously appealed to the UK to remain in the EU.