Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary ripped into the European Commission for being a “horrendously ineffective” regulator and said it is making industrial policy “on the hoof.”
He also expressed little concern about the Brexit negotiations — despite campaigning for the Remain side before the 2016 referendum — because he expected the U.K. to “roll over on almost every point.”
Speaking to POLITICO at an airline event on Tuesday, O’Leary said the EU should “focus on how you build an efficient single market and how you implement regulation” instead of dabbling in geopolitics, which he said is not its forte, or coming up with fancy job titles like commissioner for the European way of life — “What the fuck is that about?”
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has promised to boost the EU’s role on the world stage.
“As Europe moves away from its focus on an efficient single market and into all these political fucking squabbles and defense and immigration, it’s hopeless,” he said. “It’s utterly fucking useless at delivering any of that.”
Much of O’Leary’s ire was focused on the Commission’s competition department, which he feels hasn’t acted strongly enough to prevent illegal state aid and is allowing Ryanair’s competitors to run effective monopolies in national markets.
“I think it would be difficult to lower my faith in the European Commission as an effective regulator since they have always been horrendously ineffective regulators,” O’Leary said.
He referred specifically to the two tranches of emergency aid worth €1.3 billion Alitalia has received from the Italian government — which the Commission is investigating — and Lufthansa’s move to acquire parts of Air Berlin in 2017, which was cleared by Brussels.
“When Lufthansa’s allowed to buy Air Berlin in phase 1 with no remedies at all, Europe’s reputation as an effective arbiter of competition policy is frankly zero,” he said.
The Commission has opened numerous investigations into Ryanair’s dealings with regional airports in Germany and France. On Monday, the Commission announced an investigation into Béziers airport in France, where it thinks Ryanair may have received an unfair discount and an illegal marketing arrangement.
“The Commission has concerns that the agreements in question may give Ryanair an undue economic advantage,” it said.
O’Leary played down the investigation, saying the Commission should have bigger fish to fry.
“They spend all this time investigating Mickey Mouse deals at regional airports where nobody else wants to fly anyway, and no time or attention is devoted towards how many bailouts SAS had in Scandinavia, Alitalia is a running fucking joke, and these are €900 million, €600 million loans, and these loans will never be paid back.”
The Ryanair chief was less worried about the Brexit negotiations, as he believes the EU will get exactly what it wants because “the Brits have no negotiating fucking power.”
“This will finish in only two ways,” O’Leary said. “The British walk away, in which case they’ll be abandoned and there will be no food in the supermarket fucking shelves. There will be riots in the streets and [Prime Minister Boris] Johnson will be out of power.”
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“Or they will roll over at the end of the day … they will sell whatever deal they can fucking do.”