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A vote for Brexit would damage the UK travel industry, says Andrew Swaffield, chief executive of Monarch Group
The extraordinary growth of low-cost carriers in the UK over the past 20 years was made possible by free trade agreements within the European Union.
The ability to fly freely across the EU and to grow in all member states using these hard-won agreements underpins these carriers’ business models. Just think back to what it was like flying around Europe before these freedoms led to the low prices and competition we now all enjoy.
Many UK citizens have invested in holiday homes in the EU and make use of these accessible air fares to travel freely between home and holiday home. Some stay for extended periods or have moved completely but still travel regularly using low-cost airlines to visit friends and relatives.
In addition to those who travel to their own property in the EU, there are now large numbers of people who take holidays in residential property, using websites that make booking villas and homes simple. Furthermore, a large number of tour operators are using privately owned villas.
The European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) scheme gives UK citizens certain benefits while travelling or living in the EU and there are no restrictions on how long they can stay or what properties they can own. The cost of travel insurance can be extraordinarily high, especially for older travellers and those with medical conditions, whereas Ehic does not discriminate.
My own father recently suffered a heart attack in Spain and received excellent hospital treatment, all of which will be dealt with under the reciprocal Ehic system.
The EU has even begun to eliminate discrimination on things like inheritance taxes, meaning that UK citizens get the same treatment as locals.
If we vote to leave the EU we jeopardise all of these freedoms. Who can guarantee that we would successfully renegotiate all of these agreements that have taken decades to achieve?
Would the EU and its member states want to make it easy for the UK to keep all of the advantages of membership without actually being a member? Would this not make it even more likely that other countries would vote to leave?
At the very least we would have a period of several years of tough negotiations and no seat at the European table to influence things.
Taken for granted
In the end, it seems most likely that we would end up back where we started, paying pretty much what we pay now (like Norway) but with less influence and having been through a period of enormous disruption and uncertainty.
These modern aspects of life in the EU are currently taken for granted, but once we have lost them we would realise what value they held.
There are other reasons to stay in the EU, such as access to inward investment and access to a skilled workforce – about 8% of our workforce are EU non-UK citizens.
Monarch is a UK-based airline and 85% of our customers are British, so we would probably be less directly affected than some of our larger multinational competitors. However, we believe it would be extremely damaging to UK aviation and the UK travel industry if the UK voted to leave.
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