Sir Richard Branson last night described the economy as “f****d”.

The entrepreneur described the current downturn as “a terrible, terrible mess” and blamed “some very irresponsible people in the banking community” and “lax regulation”.

“I was going to say, it’s f****d, but I think I had better not have said that,” Sir Richard said.

“I think it is a terrible, terrible mess, which has been brought upon us by some very irresponsible people in the banking community, some very lax regulation and we are going to have to work hard to dig ourselves out of it.

“I think governments have moved quickly and hopefully it will be a two- year, two or three-year nightmare not a 1929 nightmare.’’