The Hungarian-American investor predicted Brexit will be “an immensely damaging process” and said Brussels would be making a huge mistake if it attempts to “punish” the UK for leaving.
In a landmark speech to the EU Commission’s flagship business event the controversial businessman tore into the current “dysfunctional” bloc but said it was not too late for politicians to save it.
George Soros said Britain may never leave the EU
And he expressed hopes of a “wonderful outcome” which would see British MPs voting to rejoin the project – with the consent of voters – before the transitional measures attached to the divorce have expired.
The europhile financier, who is a close ally of Brussels boss Jean-Claude Juncker, is a controversial figure in Hungary where the Government has accused him of using his billions to try and manipulate domestic politics.
He has also been an outspoken critic of Brexit, but has repeatedly conceded that the frustrations with the EU which led to Britain’s vote to quit are felt in many other countries.
He told the Brussels Economic Forum: “Brexit will be an immensely damaging process, harmful to both sides. The European Union must resist temptation to punish Britain and approach the negotiations in a constructive spirit.
“It should use Brexit as a catalyst for introducing far-reaching reforms. The divorce will be a long process, taking as long as five years. Five years are a very long time in politics, especially in revolutionary times like the present.
“During that time, the European Union could transform itself into an organisation that other countries like Britain would want to join. If that happened, the two sides may want to be reunited even before the divorced was completed.
Mr Soros added: “That would be a wonderful outcome, worth striving for. This seems practically inconceivable right now, but in reality, it is quite attainable.
“Britain is a parliamentary democracy. Within five years it has to hold another general election and the next parliament may want to vote for being reunited with Europe.”
The two sides may want to be reunited even before the divorced was completed
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The financier said Brussels had to reinvent itself to build “a European Union that countries like Britain would want to join” or else it will likely face extinction.
He described the EU’s insistence that all new members join the euro currency as “unreal” and said eurocrats had to accept that not all members wanted further political integration.
Mr Soros said: “If the European Union carries on with business as usual, there is little hope for an improvement. That is why the European Union needs to be radically reinvented.
“The eurozone in particular became the exact opposite of what was originally intended. The European Union was meant to be a voluntary association of like-minded states that were willing to surrender part of their sovereignty for the common good.
“After the financial crisis of 2008, the eurozone was transformed into a creditor/debtor relationship where the debtor countries couldn’t meet their obligations and the creditor countries dictated the terms that the debtors had to meet.
“By imposing an austerity policy they made it practically impossible for the debtor countries to grow out of their debts. The net result was neither voluntary nor equal.”
Brexit debate in pictures Mon, April 17, 2017
The debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg will focus on key issues of the Brexit talks including reciprocal rights for EU citizens, the peace process in Northern Ireland and trade
AFP/Getty Images 1 of 23
Former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage (L) gestures as he speaks with EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (R) prior to a debate on the conclusions of the last European Council, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg
He concluded: “The failure to clarify the relationship between the eurozone and the European Union reveals a broader defect. There is a hidden assumption that various members may be moving at various speeds but they are all moving to the same ultimate destination.
“This has given rise to the claim of ‘an ever closer union’ that has been explicitly rejected by a rising number of countries. This claim needs to be abandoned.
“Instead of a ‘multi-speed’ Europe we should aim for a “multi-track” Europe that would allow member states a wider variety of choices. This would have a far-reaching beneficial effect.”