Sir Stuart Rose has said Marks & Spencer was wrong to close its stores in Western Europe – and predicted the retailer would make a return to the Continent.

Sir Stuart (pictured) told The Times the high street icon had closed its stores on the continent for internal “political, not commercial” reasons – and claimed he would have blocked the move had he been in charge at the time.

Between 2000 and 2001, M&S closed scores of shops in Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Portugal.

“In 2001 we took the tragic decision to close all the [shops] in Europe," he told a Spanish newspaper.

"The reason was political, not commercial. As we were going through a difficult time in Britain we decided to close them to save our economic activity in the UK. We will be back at some time, but not in the foreseeable future.”

M&S still has four stores in the Canary Islands and last year opened a new outlet in Marbella.

Sir Stuart’s comments came with the executive chairman facing pressure from investors to reduce his remuneration when he hands over the reins to Marc Bolland later this year.

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