Sunday 4 December 2016

O'Leary plans to 'terrify life out of' Brexit voters

Jane Simpson

Published 15/05/2016 | 02:30

Michael O'Leary of Ryanair
Michael O'Leary of Ryanair

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary is emerging as one of the strongest business advocates of Britain staying in the European Union after saying the anti-Brexit campaign should be ready to scare voters to secure victory in the referendum.

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Asked what he would do to bolster the 'Remain' cause if the outcome of the poll is still in doubt 10 days before the ballot, O'Leary said the pro-EU lobby shouldn't flinch from stating its case in the starkest terms.

"I'd want to terrify the life out of everybody that there's a real danger the lunatics on the leave side are going to win, so get out and vote," O'Leary said at a Bloomberg Brexit forum in Dublin on Friday.

Ryanair, which is based in the Irish capital but counts the UK as its biggest market, is spending €25,000 on an advertising drive calling on Britons to stay in the 28-nation bloc.

In addition to newspaper and online ads, the campaign will see Europe's biggest discount airline add vast pro-EU stickers to some of its aircraft. The company will also email an unspecified number of UK businesses and customers using its client database.

O'Leary said Ryanair expects to slow or halt further expansion in the UK in the event of a Brexit, and that Britons should expect airfares to increase as the UK becomes less attractive compared with faster-growing markets.

A Brexit accompanied by Britain leaving the European single market would also put at risk the so-called open skies regime that liberalised aviation within the EU and underpinned the emergence of the low-cost sector, the CEO said.

"One of the great things that EU has delivered is low-fare air traffic," he said. "We fundamentally believe it's in the UK's best interests to stay."

Some of Ryanair's ads feature the headline "Vote Yes to Europe" above an image of one of its jets flying over Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament as a red London bus sweeps by.

Britain accounts for almost two out of every five Ryanair passengers, with 41 million customers there this year out of 106 million in total.

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