Blankfein Says Debate on U.K.’s Role in Europe Is ‘Healthy’

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein said that it’s “healthy” for the U.K. to debate its membership in the European Union even though an exit from the bloc wouldn’t be good for the country.

“It would be detrimental to the U.K. to leave the European Union,” Blankfein, 58, said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland today. “I don’t find the debate detrimental.”

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge this week to hold a referendum by the end of 2017 on whether Britain should stay in the 27-nation union has been viewed by some business people and economists as a risk to investments because of the uncertainty it would create. Blankfein, whose company is the fifth-biggest U.S. bank by assets, said that he regarded the U.K.’s role in the EU as a “simmering issue” that needed to be openly discussed. “I regard that as healthy,” he said.

Blankfein, who took part in a panel discussion on competitiveness, said he feels the world has overcome a lot of problems that weighed down markets and economic growth in recent years.

“We’ve chewed through a lot of the problems and I would say my investing self tells me that the worst is over by far,” he said. Still, he urged “caution because this wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve suggested the worst was over, only to find out that there was a bit of a relapse.”

Blankfein also responded to a question on the bank’s decision earlier this month not to postpone bonus payments to some London-based employees to help them benefit from a lower tax rate. The firm decided against the delay after media reports and criticism of the potential move by politicians and Bank of England Governor Mervyn King.

“We’re a business that deals with the public, public opinion is important to us,” he said. “We live in the world and we have to take account of it.”