Amount of Money That Soros Gave to Best for Britain 'Pretty Small' - Analyst

© AP Photo / Olivier Hoslet, Pool PhotoGeorge Soros, Founder and Chairman of the Open Society Foundation, waits for the start of a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, April 27, 2017
George Soros, Founder and Chairman of the Open Society Foundation, waits for the start of a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, April 27, 2017 - Sputnik International
Billionaire George Soros pledged a new donation of 100,000 pounds to the campaign to stop Brexit. This comes on top of 400,000 pounds that Soros previously decided to contribute to the Best for Britain campaign. Radio Sputnik discussed the issue with Jonathan Portes, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at King's College, London.

Sputnik: How influential do you think his Open Society Foundations really is? Could it really do anything as far as changing people's minds about Brexit or is perhaps the Brexit process itself enough to really change people's minds about Brexit?

Jonathan Portes: In the UK, this is going to be much more peripheral. Remember, we are talking about the Open Society is a very big organization. The amount of money Mr. Soros has given for the Best for Britain which is a relatively small organization is pretty small. And I think, as you say, you know, there are a lot of other things. The British Brexit debate continues. It is very vigorous. There is a spectrum of people all the way from those who want us to reverse Brexit entirely to those who want to press ahead as quickly as we can, and all possible positions in the middle. Best for Britain, even with a bit of money from Mr. Soros, is just one more player in this very big debate. And I think you are quite right, I mean, the British people are quite capable of making up their own mind. There is loads of information out there, loads of campaigns and groups. This is just one more, and we probably shouldn't get too excited about it.

Right. So, now, we've been hearing talk about the possibility of a new Brexit vote. Do you think that's a possibility, I don't know, with or without Soros and his supporters? Do you think we could be seeing a new referendum? Because there are so many difficult issues that have come up that nobody even thought about: the Northern Ireland issue, Gibraltar, just so many things. And how are you going to set up these customs points and just leaving the market and etc.?

Jonathan Portes: You are quite right. Brexit has turned out to be — even for those of us like me, who knew it would be very-very complicated and thought it would be — as you say, it's even more complicated than that. And the more we get into it, the more complicated it becomes. That said, I don't think the second referendum is on the cards immediately.

READ MORE: Soros' 'Elitist' Anti-Brexit Intervention 'Defies Will of British People' — MEP

The majority of public opinion in the UK still is that we've had one referendum, it was quite recently, we need to implement the decision of the referendum. That could change. It's not impossible, as the process develops. But I don't think we are there yet and certainly I don't think that Mr. Soros or indeed any of the other groups campaigning now for a second referendum are going to succeed in their objective in an immediate future. It would take, I think, a further really big crisis, not just these complications, but an actual crisis in the Brexit process to kick the British people to actually wanting a second referendum. So, not impossible, but we're definitely not there yet.

Ok. What kind of crisis [should it be]? Prime Minister May has been facing a lot of pressure even from her own party members and supporters. Do you think that crisis can come in a way or whether or not Theresa May is really able to maintain her position?

Jonathan Portes: I think that is indeed the most likely origin [of a possible crisis]. If there is a crisis, it will come because the government and Theresa May are no longer able to commend support for their Brexit policy in the House of Commons in parliament and they lose their critical vote on some stage of the Brexit process. If that happens, and it's still an "if", then I think it s very difficult to predict what might happen in British politics. You could have a new government, you could have a new general election with who knows what results, or you could, under some circumstances, have a second referendum. This is not impossible, but we still the way away from that yet. So I don't think it's immediately on the cards. But it's certainly is not impossible in the medium term.

READ MORE: Billionaire Soros Vows to Spend Additional $138,300 on Anti-Brexit Campaign

Other than Soros, are there any other international players, other influential NGOs that are funded that perhaps have the opposite opinion that Britain should Brexit as soon as possible and as hard as possible? Perhaps, is he facing any competition?

Jonathan Portes: You know, the UK is a very international place, and there are people here who may not have British nationality who have to some extent perhaps a legitimate interest in this debate. And they are entitled to fund the same non-political parties and political campaigns, but indirectly. So, you know, there has been some talk, for example, about the Hutton Institute [inaudible] which is an influential, well-funded think-tank and research institute that does research on trade and other Brexit-related issues. They have been criticized for their funding sources. In my view, however, I think some of their work is useful, and some I disagree with. But actually that people should publish analysis and research on such issues with the aim of intending to influence the general public debate seems to be perfectly reasonable. What they publish is published, and people can criticize it and judge it on their merits. That's how the democratic society works.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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