Lord Alan Sugar does not see how UK can leave EU on no-deal

Lord Sugar pours cold water on Tory leadership hopeful Boris Johnson’s talk of quitting EU ‘come what may’

Lord Alan Sugar, Britain’s most famous businessman, does not see how the UK can exit the European Union without a deal.

“I can’t see how you can leave without no deal,” Lord Sugar told the Climbcon business conference in London on Friday, June 28.

Lord Sugar described Brexit as a complex business negotiation, yet Prime Minister Theresa May disbanded the Government’s consultative committee of business people. His co-host on The Apprentice, Karren Brady, a Conservative peer herself, had told him she never had any approach from the Prime Minister either.

Fellow interviewee Piers Morgan, presenter of Good Morning Britain, said he doesn’t see how Brexit is deliverable, given that three quarters of MPs voted for remain. Parliament has been shameful in thwarting the result of the referendum, said Morgan, who predicted that the Government would lose a no-confidence vote to be followed by a general election.

“There’s no chance of Boris or Jeremy Hunt getting us a Brexit that works,” said Morgan.

Surprisingly, Lord Sugar still wants Boris Johnson to become Prime Minister, despite repeating that he lied during the referendum and should have gone to prison.

Sugar said: “He’s a serial liar, straight out of the Donald Trump book of lying, but Boris has a better chance of winning an election against that evil Jeremy Corbyn. I want to use him to make sure that Corbyn doesn’t get into power.”

Morgan said: “I’ve known Boris for 25 years and he’s full of crap a lot of the time.”

Lord Sugar compared Brexit to a war and said that Parliament has ignored the wishes of the people, who asked them to deliver Brexit.

Morgan blamed the lack of leadership from senior politicians as partly to blame.

“We have a weak upper tier of leadership in this country, which is a great shame,” said Morgan.

Actual business advice was thin on the ground during the conversation between Lord Sugar and Piers Morgan, which at times felt more like a rock concert than a conference.

Business advice

One piece of small business advice Lord Sugar did share was not spending too much money on buying leads, which, he said can ratchet up; instead, concentrate on building up your reputation.

As to the secret behind most successful businesses, Morgan said it doesn’t matter what you do, you just have to be passionate about it. Donald Trump, he said, likes nothing more than to talk about buildings, while Rupert Murdoch has an “unreal” love for newspapers. The key is to make people believe in you, Morgan said, and the way to do that was to make yourself noticed through hard work.

“It’s the passion that gives you the hunger,” said the TV presenter.

Something else that Morgan has noticed with successful business people was that they all keep on top of their email inboxes and respond quickly – albeit briefly. Waiting ages for a response to an email is symptomatic of businesses that lacks internal discipline, he said.

What Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and Lord Sugar have in common

Asked what Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and Lord Sugar had in common, Morgan said all three share a “fearlessness, a self-belief which is almost crushing but all three are very loyal”.

Morgan praised Rupert Murdoch, who he said was misrepresented in the media, as having “a brilliant visionary mind, always looking ahead 10 to 15 years in the future … he believes in the fearlessness of youth”.

One Murdoch tip that Morgan shared with the conference was that Murdoch would have a bullet-pointed list of awkward questions prepared whenever he phoned Morgan up for a weekly chat. It meant that as a newspaper editor – Morgan edited The News of the World – you had to be on top of your game.

Even if you made a mistake, Murdoch would never “throw you to the wolves, which is good leadership, I think”.

Asked what his own brand-new business idea would be if he was to appear on a TV show such as Dragon’s Den, Lord Sugar said he would pitch a business that he already had some experience in. “You don’t just jump out of bed and think, ‘I’m going to do this.’”

That said, Lord Sugar – who made his fortune selling Amstrad word processors back in the 1980s – would probably plump for something in digital media if starting out today; a new Facebook or Instagram, even if it meant having to go to America to launch the company, where investors are more receptive to start-ups.

Asked how he dealt with unpopularity on social media – Morgan has 6.6m followers on Twitter (“As any woman will tell you, it really is all about size,” he joked), Morgan said that Twitter was a powerful marketing tool for any business.

Lord Sugar poured scorn on business consultants, who, he harrumphed, swan into businesses “knowing nothing” and then leave you with a large bill.

Further reading

Karren Brady Q&A – 6 qualities of a successful entrepreneur

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Tim Adler

Tim Adler is group editor of Small Business, Growth Business and Information Age. He is a former commissioning editor at the Daily Telegraph, who has written for the Financial Times, The Times and the...

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