“Slowly but surely what I predicted about Europe is happening. What I said 10 years ago is that it would soon become a third world economy."We don't of course dispute the thrust of Ecclestone's views. In charge of a global 'circus' which takes in five continents, nineteen countries and draws in a global television audience measured in the hundreds of millions", he is well placed to understand the stagnation of "little Europe" in contrast to the economic realities of globalisation.
And this matters to the UK because, despite F1 being a global business, its home is in the UK, notably in an area known as "Motorsport Valley" - its contribution to the UK economy not insignificant:
Now almost 3,500 companies associated with motorsport are based in Motorsport Valley, employing around 40,000 people. That represents around 80% of the world's high-performance engineers.But this endorsement from 'Bernie' comes with a caveat. Ecclestone's business deals are...erm... somewhat less than candid. He once donated £1 million to the Labour party in an attempt to exempt F1 from tobacco advertising. Having achieved that exemption he then got his money back, leading to this infamous quote by Tony Blair:
The industry continues to grow, with companies in Motorsport Valley producing an estimated turnover of £6bn, of which £3.6bn is exported.
"I think most people who have dealt with me, think I'm a pretty straight sort of guy and I am." .Then we have Ecclestone paying off German judges with £60 million to end a very damaging bribery trial which would end his tenure in F1. A tenure that has left a sport in crisis with two F1 teams now in administration, and 'Bernie' admitting he doesn't know how to fix the crisis.
Views from a man who in charge of a multi-billion pound industry is out of touch with the need to adopt a social media outlook. Ironic really in a ruthless sport where technology is king, that same technology which is passing the old man by.
In this sense Ecclestone's views on Europe and its problems are not helpful. Rather like Richard Branson who claims exit for the UK would be disastrous, we have two less than candid business leaders with reputations tarnished slogging it out over the economic case for EU membership - with no altruistic intentions intended. Thus with Ecclestone's intervention for the outers it's a case of; "with friends like this..."
As Richard North notes the EU is a political project not an economic one:
...while Osborne is pretending we joined the EU "economic proposition" when, quite obviously, we joined a political project.In this sense the message therefore to the likes of Ecclestone and Branson is mind your own business.
Everybody is pretending here that their particular corner of the EU is something it isn't, and then to cap it all, Osborne joins with his boss in lusting after something neither of them can have – a reformed EU. One of these days, these people are going to grow up, face reality and talk about the EU as it really is, rather than they would like it to be – or think it should be. Then, perhaps we might just start making some progress. But, as always, it would be unwise to hold our breath.