IAG boss warns UK voters may resent poll ‘interference’
Ireland and Irish business people – should think twice before they call on the UK to stay in the EU, the boss of British Airways’ owners, IAG, has warned.
The airline boss said that it is obvious that Ireland would lose out if Britain exits the EU – Brexit – but making the case that Britain would be worse off requires tact and skill, he suggested, or it could be counterproductive.
“I think we need to be careful. People won’t take too kindly to what they see as being external sources influencing or trying to interfere with a local process.
I think it’s important for people to highlight the critical nature of the decision and for Irish businesses,” Mr. Walsh told Irish news media.
“I’ve no doubt that Irish businesses, indeed everybody in Ireland, will be interested in seeing the status quo continue.
“It would place Ireland in a difficult position,” he said. Mr. Walsh was unequivocal about his own pro-Europe views despite having frequent run-ins with the European Commission.
He said he also believes that both the EU and Britain would benefit from the UK being in Europe although he does see the case for reforming some of the way the EU does business.
The best way to achieve this, he thought, was by the UK exerting influence from within, rather than outside. “I’ve always expressed a personal view that I’m pro-Europe. “My interactions with the Commission are not very positive so I do strongly support the idea of a reformed EU. I think the UK can do that from within. In fact, I think the UK could exert a lot more influence in Europe than maybe it has.”
“From the business point of view, I think the UK is better off within the EU,” said. “At the moment, there are a lot of unknowns that need to be clarified. “It’s going to be an interesting process but, without question, from an Irish point of view it would be good if the UK stayed within the EU,” he added.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary – who said he had no love for the European Commission – urged Irish businesses to campaign against Brexit as both the European ideal and Britain’s continued influence in the EU were for the common good, Mr Walsh, who led the €1.4 billion takeover of his old airline, Aer Lingus earlier this year, is this week expected to report a huge 33 per cent jump in third quarter profits (€1.2 billion) at IAG which owns BA, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vuelling.
The end of year figure is expected to be even more impressive because it will include earnings from Aer Lingus which only became part of IAG six weeks before the end of the quarter.
Shareholders are expected to get their first dividend since the €5.3 billion formation of IAG in 2011 and during which time Mr Walsh turned around the loss-making Spanish flag carrier Iberia into profit.