Wednesday 17 January 2018

Euro rivals will 'screw over' UK airlines - O'Leary

Michael O'Leary
Michael O'Leary

Sarah Collins

French and German airlines will seek to "screw over" UK airline carriers in the wake of Brexit, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has claimed.

The businessman described Brexit as "one of the great economic suicide notes in history", and predicted Lufthansa and Air France would see it as "a competitive opportunity".

He added that once flight cancellations started to hit British holidaymakers, there would be uproar.

"By September 2018, when your average British voter is sitting down to work out where he's going on holidays in the summer of 2019, the two options he will have will be: drive to Scotland or get a ferry to Ireland," Mr O'Leary told MEPs in Brussels yesterday.

"It will be a couple of months before British people understand that they don't all want to go on holidays in Ireland or in Scotland, and I think the British government will be forced to come to its senses."

In fact, he believes that the UK would consider reversing its stance on Brexit once holidaymakers were faced with the prospect of spending the summer in Ireland or Scotland.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe (left) talks with Cyprus’ Finance Minister Charis Georgiades prior to a meeting of EU finance ministers at the EU Council building in Brussels. Photo: AP
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe (left) talks with Cyprus’ Finance Minister Charis Georgiades prior to a meeting of EU finance ministers at the EU Council building in Brussels. Photo: AP

"We should be optimistic. The British, I believe, will change their minds [about Brexit], because it's going to be very bad for them over the next six to eight months," Mr O'Leary said.

He said Ryanair was already reallocating aircraft from Britain to European regional airports to ensure unfettered access to EU and transatlantic routes under an EU-US "open skies" deal.

"The UK is going to have to find a way, within the next 12 months, to get back into 'open skies' or to have a bilateral with the EU27, and I think that's an impossibility," Mr O'Leary told a European parliamentary committee on the impact of Brexit on aviation.

"There's no goodwill in Europe towards Britain. The French and the Germans, whenever they can get the opportunity to stick one to the British, like nothing better."

Mr O'Leary said Brexit was a "shambles" and the UK government "haven't a bull's notion what they're doing" in the negotiations, recalling a senior Brexit minister telling him that an open skies deal with Pakistan could make up for the loss of access to European airspace.

"A lot of Pakistanis would like to travel to the UK; I'm not quite sure all of those Brits that like to holiday in Spain, Portugal or Greece fancy Karachi for their summer holidays," he quipped.

But Willie Walsh, the head of International Airlines Group (IAG) - the holding company for Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia - said he was optimistic that a deal would be done with the UK.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe insisted that Ireland would not be following the UK out of the EU, and said Brexit continued to be a "source of great sadness".

He told a committee of MEPs investigating the Panama Papers tax scandal that Irish people were "proud members of the European Union" and would remain members of the EU "family" after Brexit.

He also responded to comments by French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire that companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook should "pay the taxes they owe in Europe".

"Taxation is a national competence," Mr Donohoe told the Irish Independent. "These companies are very, very significant employers within Ireland, and they deserve to be treated fairly by tax authorities, and that is the case in Ireland."

Irish Independent

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