Ryanair's Irish boss pledges campaign for UK to remain in the EU
Ryanair has pledged to actively campaign for the UK to remain in the European Union at the upcoming referendum. Michael O’Leary, chief executive of the no-frills airline, claimed that Brexit would not allow the country to save money or reduce bureaucracy.
Irishman O’Leary told a press conference in central London: “As the UK’s largest airline, Ryanair is absolutely clear that the UK economy and its future growth prospects are stronger as a member of the European Union than they are outside of the EU.
“Leaving Europe won’t save the UK money or red tape because like Norway the UK will still have to contribute to Europe, and obey its rules if it wants to continue to trade freely with Europe, so it’s clear that UK voters should vote Yes to Europe and Yes to the reformed Europe, that David Cameron has delivered.
“Ryanair, our people, and I hope the vast majority of our customers, will all work together over the coming months to help deliver a resounding Yes vote on June 23.”
The airline is planning to run campaign advertisements in newspapers and on its own website, and is considering printing messages onto aircraft livery. Ryanair employs over 3,000 people in the UK and carries more than 35 million customers between the UK and Europe each year.
Mr O’Leary joked that the low-cost airline would “bore everybody to death” with its campaigning over the coming months.
“We’ll also be campaigning with our passenger base,” he said. “We’ll be getting involved in the debate and trying to influence people to vote in favour of Europe because the UK economy and UK jobs are better off in Europe.”
Mr O’Leary added: “We’re calling not just for a Yes vote but for a very large Yes vote.”
Mr O’Leary accepted that Brexit would not be “the end of the world” and predicted that it alone would not cause UK air fares to rise.
But he warned there would be “undoubtedly three or four years of uncertainty and less economic growth”.
He insisted that “the European policy of deregulation and competition has fundamentally driven down the cost of air travel”.
The 54-year-old also had a message for people campaigning for Britain to leave the EU who believe British bureaucrats are “fantastic forward-thinking gurus” while those in Brussels are “terrible”.
He said: “They can’t make a decision on a runway to save their lives … and the only impact they’ve had on air travel for the last 10 years, post Gordon Brown, has been to raise taxes on air travel.”
The Ryanair boss claimed his company would “invest less in the UK if it’s not part of the European Union” and instead focus more on central European countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Asked what he thought of prominent figures calling for a No vote, such as London Mayor Boris Johnson, Mr O’Leary replied: “They are career politicians. They don’t employ people. They don’t create jobs. They are generally passengers when it comes to the economy.
“The difference between them and businesses like Ryanair is we do invest, we do want to make money, we do depend on the strength of the European economy.”