Brexit: Michael O’Leary urges Irish to campaign for UK to stay

Ryanair chief says ‘too many businesses are too reticent about getting involved’

The Irish lobby and businesses need to join the campaign to keep the UK in the European Union, according to Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary.

Mr O'Leary warned that a 'Brexit' would endanger the agreements that allow freedom of movement between the UK and the rest of Europe, including the Republic.

He is stepping into the debate ahead of the referendum on the issue in June with an appearance on BBC's Question Time TV show in Manchester and a possible head-to-head with London mayor, Boris Johnson, although he says that the tory eurosceptic appears to be "ducking that ".

“I don’t have a vote, but I run the biggest airline in the UK, we’re one of the biggest investors in the UK and employ 4,000 people in 15 different airports, we are also a big taxpayer in the UK,” he said.


“Too many businesses are too reticent about getting involved,” he said. Mr O’Leary pointed out that as polls indicated a vote on Scottish independence was likely last year, businesses warned of the possible impact of such a move.

He said that it is possible that as the June vote approaches employers could begin to warn workers of the impact that a leave vote and the ensuing uncertainty could have on their jobs.

Mr O’Leary stressed that the Irish lobby, particularly “first generation Irish kids”, also has a role to play in the debate whose outcome could impact travel and trade between the two countries.

He argued that the ‘Leave’ side in the debate is taking the contradictory position that the UK can exit the EU but nothing will change. “If you leave, everything will not stay the same,” he warned.

Mr O'Leary said that while non-member Norway enjoyed some of the benefits of being in the union, it "contributes more per head to the EU than the UK".

The businessman was in Trinity College Dublin on Thursday to endorse economist Sean Barrett's campaign for re-election to the senate. Mr O'Leary said that Irish politics needs "sensible, intelligent economic planners" such as Mr Barrett.

On the efforts to form a Government, he predicted that there could be another election in 12 months and argued that it might not be a bad thing as it might force voters to opt for stability.

“We need to vote for parties, not single issue ’give us a minister for rural affairs or put a hospital in our village’ candidates,” he said.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas