Wingate and Holland-Kaye among signatories of letter saying Britain should stay in EU
Heathrow and Gatwick bosses John Holland-Kaye and Stewart Wingate have signed a letter by about 200 of UK businesses, saying Britain should remain in the EU. John Holland-Kaye said: “A vote to remain offers the best of both worlds – it secures our place as a powerhouse in the global economy, while remaining in the world’s largest free trade zone. Heathrow believes that the UK will be better off remaining in a reformed EU. We are the UK’s only hub airport, connecting Britain to over 80 long haul destinations, and handling over a quarter of UK exports – but we recognise that for business to thrive we also need to be part of the single European market. Membership of the EU has made air travel affordable and convenient, with regular flights to the continent from all parts of Britain – fuelling jobs, exports and economic growth.” Comments have already been made by EasyJet boss Carolyn McCall and TUI’s former chief Peter Long, warning that the cost of flights would rise if Britain leaves the European Union. People in the aviation industry believe there would be potential “uncertainty” if Brexit meant the UK has to renegotiate crucial trade deals with international partners.
Heathrow’s statement on the EU referendum
Commenting on the European Union’s impact on trade, aviation and British prosperity, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said:
“Heathrow believes that the UK will be better off remaining in a reformed EU. We are the UK’s only hub airport, connecting Britain to over 80 long haul destinations, and handling over a quarter of UK exports – but we recognise that for business to thrive we also need to be part of the single European market.
Membership of the EU has made air travel affordable and convenient, with regular flights to the continent from all parts of Britain – fuelling jobs, exports and economic growth.
A vote to remain offers the best of both worlds – it secures our place as a powerhouse in the global economy, while remaining in the world’s largest free trade zone.”
The owners of London’s two biggest airports will put on a rare show of unity on Tuesday when they warn that a UK exit from the European Union (EU) could undermine economic competitiveness.
Sky News has learnt that the chief executives of Gatwick and Heathrow – Stewart Wingate and John Holland-Kaye – have signed a letter backed by dozens of captains of industry which will argue that David Cameron’s EU reform deal is sufficiently compelling to justify opposing Brexit.
Sources said, though, that in addition to signing that letter, Heathrow Airport Holdings would go further, issuing a statement alongside its full-year results that would highlight potential “uncertainty” if the UK has to renegotiate crucial trade deals with international partners.
One insider said that directors had agreed the statement during a board meeting on Monday, adding that it would go beyond the company’s previous publicly expressed views on the EU referendum.
Heathrow is the UK’s single-biggest port by value, and executives at the airport are sufficiently concerned about the possibility of Brexit to deliver an explicit warning about the potential disruption from the renegotiation of cross-border agreements.
A Heathrow Airport Holdings spokeswoman declined to say whether the company was considering making a financial contribution to Britain Stronger in Europe, the official campaign to remain in the EU.
The decision of both Gatwick and Heathrow to sign the letter co-ordinated by Downing Street puts them on the same side of the EU debate as the Prime Minister and the opposing side to Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, who has consistently opposed the construction of a new runway at both airports in favour of a new site in the Thames Estuary.
A decision about the construction of a new runway is now unlikely to be made until well after June’s EU poll, despite the recommendation last year by Sir Howard Davies that Heathrow was the preferred option.
Tuesday’s letter from business leaders, the details of which were revealed by Sky News at the weekend, will say that leaving the EU would “deter investment and threaten jobs”.
“Businesses like ours need unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs,” it will say.
Sources also disclosed on Monday that some members of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group (BAG) have declined to put their names to the letter.
Among the members of the group who have opted not to sign it are Alison Brittain, chief executive of Whitbread; Jeff Fairburn, who runs the housebuilder Persimmon; and Liv Garfield, the Severn Trent boss.
Some companies are determined to remain neutral during the referendum campaign, meaning their bosses will not sign statements such as Tuesday’s even if they are in favour of the UK remaining in the EU.
Executives who have signed the letter include Marc Bolland, the Marks & Spencer chief executive who has signed in a personal capacity; Warren East, the Rolls-Royce boss; Jayne-Anne Gadhia, chief executive of Virgin Money; Carolyn McCall, the easyJet chief executive; John Nelson, who chairs Lloyd’s of London; Sir Roger Carr, BAE Systems chairman; Sir Mike Rake, BT Group chairman; Vittorio Colao, chief executive of Vodafone; and Xavier Rolet, head of the London Stock Exchange Group.
EU referendum: Top firms back pro-EU letter, but supermarkets refuse to sign
Brexit up in the air: implications for aviation if the UK votes to leave the EU
CAPA, the Centre for Aviation, has set out some of the issues that UK aviation might face, if the UK chose to leave the EU – Brexit. CAPA says the biggest source of benefits to UK aviation from EU membership is in the area of traffic rights and the nationality of airlines. Any airline owned and controlled by nationals of EU member states is free to operate anywhere within the EU without restrictions on capacity, frequency or pricing. The European Common Aviation Area (ECAA) covers 36 countries and 500 million people. CAPA believes if the UK were to leave the EU, its airlines would no longer enjoy automatic access to this market, although the UK might negotiate continued access. The most obvious way for the UK to do this would be to participate in the ECAA Agreement in the same way as countries such as Norway currently do. CAPA says it would be questionable whether continued pan-European access would be popular in the EU for easyJet which has caused significant competitive damage to European legacy airlines. Being Irish, Ryanair would continue to have access to the European market, but if the UK had left the EU, this could cause Ryanair difficulties operating in what is its largest country market. Hence Michael O’Leary is backing the UK’s continued EU membership.
EasyJet CEO says UK should stay in the EU for low fares and airline benefits
easyJet will campaign for Britain to stay in the European Union, with its chief executive telling consumers that membership encourages low cost travel between European cities. easyJet ‘s CEO, Carolyn McCall, said the EU was good for its business and its customers. “We will do everything we can to make sure that consumers understand that they are far better off within the EU when it comes to connectivity and low fares,” she said. Ms McCall is part of the pro-European lobby group, “Britain Stronger in Europe”, headed by former Marks & Spencer chief executive Stuart Rose. EasyJet would not be shy about its support. easyJet operates over 600 routes, most of which are in the EU. Ms McCall said: “We think it would be very difficult for our government to negotiate with 27 other member states to get the flying rights that we have today within the EU.” EasyJet has detailed contingency plans in place for if the UK votes to leave the EU, but they are not making these public. Ryanair has also urged Britain to stay in the EU. Though several large British businesses favour staying in the EU, often due to the benefits of tariff-less trade, many smaller firms feel the EU imposes what they argue are costly regulations.