UK better off in EU, says Airbus executive John Parker
Sir John Parker, the Northern Ireland-born boss of mining giant Anglo American, has said Britain should stay in the EU.
The former Harland and Wolff chairman and chief executive is also a member of the board of aerospace giant Airbus as well as chairing Anglo American.
Airbus is a French company with a major wing manufacturing facility in England - and it relies on many Northern Ireland aerospace companies such as Denroy Plastics in Bangor in its supply chain.
Sir John said: "Airbus is very much pro-Britain staying in the EU and I am in that position as well, not just because of Airbus but a number of different reasons.”
Being in the EU gave access to the “world’s biggest single market” but the UK had the ‘best of both worlds’ as it had kept the pound. As a non-executive director of Airbus, he said he confronted “puzzled” reactions from international colleagues. “Being on the board of something like Airbus, I see it upfront. I am face to face with French and German board colleagues who are quite puzzled as to why we feel this way.”
And he claimed that in some cases, politicians who had come out in favour of leaving the EU were motivated by furthering their own careers rather than what was good for the UK. He added: “If you look at their personal records and what they have done in life to earn a living, a number of them who wouldn’t know one end of a boardroom from the other.”
Sir John joined Harland and Wolff as an apprentice aged 16 and later served as its chairman and CEO, leading the yard’s absorption into the private sector.
He said membership of the EU was of particular importance to Northern Ireland and the Republic as it gave access to the market despite the island’s position on the periphery of Europe.
And he said EU customers of Northern Ireland and UK companies may ultimately feel “let down” if the country votes to leave Europe on June 23.
“I think Europeans are quite puzzled — what is this exactly all about? I talk to any number of Europeans and we have had great peace in Europe since the Second World War. I am convinced that the single market and the increased political ‘jaw jaw’ in various EU bodies has actually contributed to that peace.”
He said he felt concerned about the period of uncertainty which could result from a Brexit, and its impact on the value of sterling.
“We have seen what it has done to the pound already but as soon as it’s raised, it’s dismissed as scaremongering.”
And in a reference to London Lord Mayor Boris Johnson, who took a prolonged period of time from the announcement of a referendum to reveal that he would campaign for Brexit, Sir John said: “All that jockeying for position and all that manoeuvring has disappointed me — especially when someone took 24 hours to make up their mind. There’s much more self-interest and interest in their own position than that of their country.”