Ryanair plans to shift away from the UK after Brexit vote

 
James Nickerson
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O'Leary says growth could be driven from the EU rather than UK (Source: Getty)

Budget airline Ryanair has warned that it may shift its focus away from the UK and onto the EU after the referendum yielded a Brexit victory last week.

Just days after the UK voted to leave the EU, Ryanair's chief executive cast doubt on whether the company would place any of its new aircraft into the UK next year.

“We are taking another 50 aircraft next year. Would we place any of those in the UK? It is highly unlikely,” Michael O’Leary told the Wall Street Journal. “We will pivot all of our growth into the European Union.”

Read more: Ryanair urges European Commission to stop French strikes as it cancels 166 flights

Airlines have been among those hardest hit on the FTSE exchanges following Thursday's vote.

However, O'Leary pointed to the wider implications. "There clearly is going to be a hit to UK GDP and to European GDP. There is three to four months of considerable uncertainty. The pound has fallen through the floor. It has all the feel and hallmark of another 9/11.”

He added that Ryanair will discount seats to fill planes in response.

Ryanair's share price has fallen over 19 per cent since markets closed on Thursday. O'Leary said that the company used the slump to buy back its own stock, purchasing €150m worth of its own shares.

Read more: Ryanair wants people to back Remain so much it's offering cheaper flights home to vote on 22 and 23 June

While Ryanair carried 116m passengers last year, it expects to reach 180m passengers by this year - though much of this, O'Leary said, will now be driven by the EU.

Airlines benefit from the EU's single aviation market, allowing them to fly to and from cities within the 28-member bloc freely.

The result will have caused some uncertainty, but O'Leary hopes that the UK will in the end negotiate some kind of access to the market.

If the UK does not, he said Ryanair could potentially seek a UK license to maintain traffic rights, even though that would mean higher costs.

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