Ryanair boss predicts Boris Johnson’s EU deal will be ‘Brexit in name only’

Simon Calder
Direction of travel: a Ryanair Boeing 737 boarding at Gatwick airport: Simon Calder

Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary has told The Independent that he predicts the UK will remain in the single market – partly to preserve access to cheap air fares.

After the scale of the Conservatives’ victory in the general election became clear, Mr O’Leary said: “Congratulations on finally making a decision.

“It looks like at last we’ll have a government with a majority to get on with whatever they want to get on with.

“I am more optimistic today than I was previously.”

Because of uncertainty over Brexit and weakness in UK consumer confidence, Europe’s biggest budget airline has expanded in the British market by only 5 per cent in 2019, compared with 8 per cent in the rest of the EU.

The Ryanair boss said it “looks inevitable” that the UK would notionally leave the European Union at the end of January.

“Fine, you want to be seen politically to be leaving the European Union, but you’ll finish up with a Norway-style agreement.”

Mr O’Leary said moderate voices in Boris Johnson’s government would prevail.

“I think that when they begin to realise what the reality of Brexit means without a trade deal, I think there’s enough common sense over there.

“You will ultimately finish up negotiating a trade agreement that effectively keeps you part of the single market and the customs agreement, because anything else is just economically stupid.

“I would believe or hope that with a sizeable majority there will be enough common sense in the Tory party to finish up with some kind of ‘Brino’ – Brexit in name only.”

The Ryanair CEO said that one of the great benefits of the EU had been deregulation of the aviation market in Europe, which had allowed low-cost airlines to flourish.

And in a swipe at IAG – owner of British Airways and Aer Lingus – he said: “I hope they will come out with a sensible Brexit trade deal which will allow British consumers to continue to fly across Europe at the cheapest fares on Ryanair’s aircraft, which will reduce their emissions by 50 per cent compared to our polluting competitors.”

IAG says its vision is “to be the world’s leading airline group on sustainability”.

The group has announced a package of measures to reduce its carbon footprint, and a goal to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

Read more

Trump disrupts Ryanair passengers after exit from Nato summit