PM Direct: easyJet
Thank you, it’s great to be here with you here in Luton, and I am a proud easyJet passenger. You’ve flown me actually all over Europe: Portugal, Majorca, France, Spain, and almost always on time, although I have to admit that I’m not always on time. Actually, as I drove in here this morning, I remember once when I missed a flight altogether and had a lovely night in the Ibis hotel on the way into the airport. So I’ve let you down more often than you’ve let me down.
But it is actually, funnily enough, interesting point: very few people have I stopped on the street to tell them that I think that they’ve done an amazing thing, but actually your founder is one of them. I did do that once, because I think easyJet was a fantastic creation. And today, with whatever it is: 800 routes, 70 million passengers, supporting around 10,000 jobs in our country, this is a fantastic great British success story. So it is a pleasure to be here, talking to you about this vital issue and taking your questions.
Because on 23 June, we’ve got to make a really big decision for the future of our country. General elections are important, of course I believe that, but actually I think this is more important than a general election. If you don’t like the result of a general election, 5 years later you can make a different decision and have a different team running the country. Obviously not something I’m looking forward to, but nonetheless that’s the way the system works.
But this is a really big choice about Britain, and I’m arguing very clearly that we are safer if we stay in, because we can fight terrorism better if we’re part of this team. I think we’ll be stronger, because I think Britain gains from being in these organisations rather than losing by being in them. But crucially, I think we’ll be better off. And it’s not a complicated argument to make. It’s because we’re part of a market of 500 million people; the biggest single market anywhere in the world. And that is good for jobs, it’s good for companies, it’s good for investment, it brings businesses here to Britain. It means great businesses like this one can expand throughout the single market. It’s good for our economy, and so if we were to leave, it would be bad for our economy. It would mean less growth, it would mean fewer jobs, it would mean higher prices. It would mean, as we set out yesterday, a recession for our economy. So we’re better off if we stay in this organisation.
And it’s not a static thing, because of course the single market is still expanding. It’s good we’ve got a single market in aviation; that has massively helped your business. I can remember days, I’m old enough to remember, when flying off on holiday meant getting on a sort of state owned aeroplane and going to a state owned airport in another country, and paying a very high price for it. And as Carolyn has said, prices have come down 40% since the single market has come about, and since the radical transformation that companies like easyJet have brought about.
So I’m quite convinced that when it comes to this economic argument, we are better off if we stay in and we’re worse off if we leave. And as I said, it’s not static, because the single market is going to go into energy, it’s going to go into digital, where we’re a real leader, and it’s going to go further into services industries, which actually make up 80% of our economy. So for those reasons I think we’ll be better off.
And today we’re talking about some quite specific things, some quite ‘retail’ things, if you like, which is what would happen to the cost of a holiday if we were to leave. If we were to leave, and the pound were to fall, which is what most people expect and what the Treasury forecast, that would put up the cost of a typical holiday for a family of 4 to a European destination by £230. It could, as Carolyn has said, put up actually the cost of air travel, because if you’re outside the single market, which is what those who want us to leave think, then you’d face all sorts of bureaucracy and restrictions that you don’t face today.
Another very retail thing that is happening in Europe, and there are a few people with mobile phones right now – don’t worry, film away, this is all live anyway. We’re abolishing roaming charges in the European Union. It’s one of the most annoying things: you’re on holiday, you use your mobile phone, you get an enormous bill. Getting rid of roaming charges could mean on a 10 minute call back to the UK, you’re saving almost £4 on that 10 minute call. So I think there’s some very strong retail arguments about the cost of a holiday, the cost of food, the cost of using your phone, for staying in the European Union.
Now, before I take your questions, I just want to make one other argument, because I think in this debate it’s very important to talk about the specifics, and we have, about jobs and prices and costs of holidays and costs of phone calls. But there is also, in my view, a bigger argument. I don’t believe those people who say, ‘Well, my head says we ought to stay in the European Union but my heart says somehow, we would be a prouder and more patriotic country if we were outside.’ I don’t think that is right. I think this is an amazing country. We are the fifth biggest economy in the world. We’ve done great things in this world. We’re a very interconnected country. What happens on the other side of the world matters to us. We care about tackling climate change; we care about trying to alleviate poverty in Africa; we know we need to have the world’s trade lanes open for British business and enterprise. And I absolutely believe, if you want a big, bold, strong United Kingdom, then you want to be in organisations like a reformed European Union, rather than outside of them. Britain is part of the G7, we’re part of the G20, we’re part of NATO, which helps to keep our defences strong. We are a very important part of the Commonwealth, which brings about a third of humanity together in one organisation. And we’re members of the European Union. Being in these organisations doesn’t diminish our standing and our strength in the world, in my view. It enhances it. So I think the big, bold, patriotic case is to stay in a reformed European Union, to fight for the sort of world that we want, rather than to stand back and be on the outside.
And in a way, that’s sort of what easyJet has done. Here you are, a British based business, but a business that has decided to take on the world in terms of being competitive, running routes all over Europe and beyond, and recognising that is in your interests, your passengers’ interests, your shareholders’ interests, all the people in this room’s interests.
And that’s my argument about Britain: let’s be the big, bold strong Britain inside the reformed European Union rather than voting to leave, and that’s the case I’m going to make every day between now and 23 June, with just under a month to go.