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The bosses of Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester Airports Group are among about 200 business leaders calling for the UK to stay part of the European Union.
Other travel sector signatories to a letter to The Times published today include Tui Travel supervisory board member Peter Long, Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary, easyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall, Air Asia and Tune Group chief executive Tony Fernandes and lastminute.com co-founder Martha Lane Fox.
They claim Brexit will put jobs at risk and counter the ‘out of EU’ movement supported by London mayor Boris Johnson and cabinet members such as Michael Gove.
The letter says: “Following the prime minister’s renegotiation, we believe that Britain is better off staying in a reformed European Union.
“He has secured a commitment from the EU to reduce the burden of regulation, deepen the single market and to sign off crucial international trade deals.
“Business needs unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs.
“We believe that leaving the EU would deter investment, threaten jobs and put the economy at risk. Britain will be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member of the EU.”
The intervention by the powerful business lobby, including chairmen or chief executives of 36 companies from the FTSE 100, including Asda, BT, Marks & Spencer, Kingfisher and Vodafone, follows Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson voicing his opposition to Brexit.
It came in the wake of the pound falling to its lowest level against the US dollar in seven years following Johnson’s decision to join the ‘leave’ campaign.
Credit ratings agency Moody’s threatened to downgrade Britain’s AA1 rating to “negative outlook” if the country voted for exit, “pending greater clarity on the longer-term impact on the UK’s economic and financial strength”.
Charlie Cornish, chief executive of MAG, owner of Manchester, Stansted, East Midlands and Bournemouth airports, said: “The EU has benefitted UK consumers and businesses enormously over the last 25 years by opening up the European aviation market to provide greater competition and choice.
“UK airlines now compete successfully on routes right across Europe, taking full advantage of the ‘open skies’ created by the EU.
“In addition to a greater choice of destinations and lower fares, European travellers have also gained in other ways, including safer and more secure travel, the abolition of mobile phone roaming charges, reciprocal health agreements and protection when flights are disrupted.
“Inside the EU Britain can continue to grow, invest and create jobs and I believe it would be in the best interests of the millions of passengers using our airports every year, and the UK economy, for Britain to remain in a reformed Europe.”
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