In Depth

Bloomberg on Brexit: unparalleled stupidity?

Michael Bloomberg says Brexit is ‘the single stupidest thing any country has ever done’ - aside from electing Trump

Michael Bloomberg

Is Brexit an “unparalleled act of stupidity”? Media mogul Michael Bloomberg thinks so.

New York's former mayor called the EU referendum result “the single stupidest thing any country has ever done, but then we Trumped it” - a reference to the election of Donald Trump, according to a report in The Guardian.

“It is really hard to understand why a country that was doing so well wanted to ruin it,” Bloomberg added. “It was not a smart thing to do and getting out of it is going to be very difficult and is going to be very painful. It will hurt industries. People are already taking space in other cities over there [Europe], us included.”

Bloomberg initially made his remarks in Boston two weeks ago, but The Guardian said he repeated them in France on Monday – perhaps in case his point had been lost on Europeans.

Nevertheless, the following day, opening his media company’s new headquarters in London and standing next to Mayor Sadiq Khan, the businessman insisted his company was “strongly committed”.

So, is it a case of “do as I say, not as I do?”

The Week had a quick look at some of Bloomberg’s own not-so-clever moments.

Opening a London office before Brexit

Many on social media highlighted that Bloomberg’s misgivings about Brexit didn’t stop him spending £1bn on his new European head office merely 18 months before the UK leaves the EU.

UK growth defies expectations

Others enjoyed reading the former investment banker’s comments while his Bloomberg news agency reported that the UK enjoyed stronger-than expected economic growth in the third quarter.

No more stupid questions, please

Of course, everyone has a few questionable moments, such as the time the 75-year-old billionaire raged at a disabled reporter who fumbled with his recording device at a press conference.

In general, Bloomberg doesn't have a lot of time for the fourth estate. In 2013, after reporters asked him about the New York mayoral election, he threatened to stop holding press conferences if he kept receiving “stupid questions”.

“Bloomberg gets testy with reporters who ask him about subjects that he doesn’t want to address,” the New York Daily News said.

He also, said Business Insider, called PolitickerNY’s Azi Paybarah “a disgrace” after the journalist asked about his campaign for a third term as mayor.

Soda ban? Stupid

Under Bloomberg’s mayorship, New York became the first city in the US to ban trans fats in restaurants. He also introduced calorie counts on restaurant chain menus and waged a war against salt in restaurants and packaged food.

However, one move failed to impress. “He tried restricting sugary soft drinks such as sodas to just 16 ounces in venues, restaurants and sidewalk carts, but the New York Supreme Court dumped the so-called ‘soda ban’ down the drain. Most of America mocked his bid to ban the ‘Big Gulp,’ especially since obesity rates rose 25% on his watch,”  the New York Daily News reported. (To be fair, the city’s childhood obesity rates dropped from 19% to 16%.)

‘Relatively corruption and crime-free’

Bloomberg’s efforts to modernise New York’s payroll during his third term of office became a national scandal and ended with several people convicted for cheating the city out of millions of dollars.

“Originally budgeted at $63 million, the cost of the project exploded to about $700 million by 2011,” reported the New York Times. The charges, it added, claimed that “almost all of the more than $600 million that the city paid to the prime contractor, Science Applications International Corporation, or S.A.I.C., was ‘tainted, directly or indirectly, by fraud’.”

However, the mayor insisted: “Nothing goes without some problems, whether it’s in your family, your company, your government, the world. On balance, New York City is - and I’ll still stand by this in spite of this - relatively corruption and crime-free.”

So, is Brexit really the stupidest thing a country could have done short of electing Trump? Perhaps, but when it comes to Michael Bloomberg, it could also be a case of dumb and dumber.

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