A decision next month by Britain to leave the European Union would put downward pressure on airfares, according to Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary.
O’Leary said a British vote for so-called ‘Brexit’ – the term for leaving the EU – would push down airfares in the short term.
O’Leary said Ryanair, on some counts the world’s largest carrier in terms of international flights, will move some investment out of Britain if it votes to leave the EU in the 23 June 2016 referendum on EU membership.
Ryanair’s prime hub is London Stansted Airport. It flies 40 million of its 100 million-plus passengers a year to and from the UK.
The outspoken O’Leary, who is campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU, estimates Brexit would push down airfares for “six to 12 months” but fares might then rise sharply if leaving the EU threatened Britain’s access to EU air services agreements.
Britain’s referendum on EU membership is being preceded by a barrage of propaganda from all sides, including from tourism bodies. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron argues Britain should stay in the EU. Leading bankers say the same thing, but the Brexit side also has strong arguments.
As Britain does not share the euro currency, the Schengen agreement or the other EU features that affect tourists most, withdrawal might have little impact on tourism, some argue.
“People came to Britain before we joined the European Union and will continue to come if we leave,” one tourism source said.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, the company which owns British Airways, Iberia and other airlines, says any decision by Britain to leave the European Union would have no “material impact” on the business. See: UK leaving EU would have little impact on airlines
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA, AFTA’s British counterpart) points out that the EU is the main destination for UK tourists, and the main source market for overseas tourists coming to the UK.
“A Brexit could jeopardise this free movement, and affect the flow of trade and travel.”
Britain joined the Common Market in 1973. Attitudes against the EU have hardened in recent years, focussing on the inability of the EU to control its borders, Britain’s opposition to many EU policies, the uncontrolled mass influx of migrants into the EU and consequent build-up of migrants in camps around Calais, all trying to enter Britain, plus the high level of immigration and how it is changing British society.
Many businesses believe Britain is being held back by the EU, which they say imposes too many rules on business and charges billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return. They want Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people coming to the UK to work.
Rapid demographic changes have played a part in shifting attitudes. London as a city is now largely or predominantly non-white, its percentage of ‘white British’ residents having plunged over the past 40 years from 86% in 1976 to just 45% now. Some 600,000 people in Britain’s capital are there illegally and 57% of births are to migrant mothers. Not all of that relates to the EU but it serves to focus attention on the issue.
At the moment, British voters appear to be fairly evenly split on the issue of Brexit. The torrent of propaganda is not shifting attitudes much, polls suggest.
Written by Peter Needham