Ryanair Holdings Plc Chief Executive Officer Micheal O’Leary waded into the row over the U.K.’s Brexit logjam, saying controversy over the so-called Irish backstop has been exaggerated.
The backstop, which keeps the U.K. in a customs union with the European Union unless a future trade deal makes border checks unnecessary, won’t be a problem so long as Britain moves ahead and negotiates such an arrangement, the Irishman said in an interview on Wednesday.
“The Northern Ireland border is not the issue it’s painted to be,” he told Bloomberg TV in Brussels. “You can’t come back to a hard border in Ireland and the backstop is a sensible protection. The Brexiteers can remove it at a stroke of their pen by doing a trade deal with the Europeans. Get on and do it.”
O’Leary, an outspoken campaigner against Brexit in the run up to the 2016 referendum, when he said it would ground flights and force Britons to holiday by bus and ferry in Scotland and Ireland, is less concerned about events immediately after March 29 now that the prospect of a no-deal split appears to have receded. He predicted that opponents of Prime Minister Theresa May’s agreement with the EU will fall into line and back the deal in Parliament.
“I’m marginally more optimistic now,” he said. “The mood music in London looks like they’re going to vote for Theresa May’s deal. At least we have some certainty through 2019 and that’s a welcome development.”
–With assistance from Sammy Jenkins.
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