- ‘Leave’ campaign treating warnings as a ‘massive conspiracy’
- Chancellor joined by Ed Balls, Vince Cable at Stansted Airport
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne sought the support of former political foes and appealed to Britons’ love of cheap vacations in his campaign to keep Britain in the European Union.
Osborne was joined on Monday by one-time adversaries Ed Balls and Vince Cable at Stansted Airport northeast of London, where he welcomed plans by Dublin-based budget carrier Ryanair Holdings Plc to invest $1.4 billion and create 450 jobs in the U.K. this year.
Introducing the event, Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary warned that low-cost fares could soon be a thing of the past if Britain leaves the EU. Balls, a former Labour Party finance spokesman, and Cable, the Liberal Democrat business secretary in the previous coalition government, then appeared alongside Osborne to endorse his view that a so-called Brexit would make Britain poorer.
“The interventions in the last couple of weeks from the IMF to the Bank of England make it very clear the economic argument is beyond doubt,” Osborne told reporters gathered in a hangar showcasing a Ryanair plane emblazoned with the slogan “Stronger, Safer and Better off in Europe.” He said that “leaving the EU is a one-way ticket to a poorer Britain.”
Osborne is seeking to distance the “Remain” campaign from criticism the EU is primarily a concern for his Conservative Party, which has split over the issue. The cross-party push came as more than 300 business leaders signed an open letter urging Britons to vote to leave the bloc in the June 23 referendum, arguing that U.K. competitiveness is being undermined.
Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, the Brexit camp’s most prominent figure, rejected Osborne’s contention “Leave” campaigners had lost the economic argument.
“That’s absolute nonsense,” Johnson said while touring a factory in Alfreton, central England. “The people who make this case are continually running Britain down and are in my view in danger of talking down the whole U.K. economy.”
Osborne also hit back at critics who accuse institutions such as the Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund of taking sides in the debate, after BOE Governor Mark Carney and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned last week an exit would have severe economic consequences.
“They think they are all part of some global stitch-up to give misinformation to the British people,” Osborne said. “The next thing we know, the ‘Leave’ camp will be accusing us of faking the moon landings, kidnapping Shergar and covering up the existence of the Loch Ness monster. The response to the sober economics warning from around the world by those who want to leave the EU has not been credible or serious.”
“To suggest these warnings are somehow contrived or misleading are frankly ridiculous,” Balls said. Cable added: “If you feel bludgeoned, it’s because we care.”
O’Leary opened the event by warning that if Britain leaves the single market, low-cost fares and vacations would no longer be guaranteed.
“Britain may be forced out of the open-skies regime, and air fares and the cost of holidays will rise,” he said. “That’s not a speculation but a certainty.”