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So what if Brexit briefly raises the cost of a family holiday, Prime Minister?

24 May 2016

8:18 AM

24 May 2016

8:18 AM

Nicola Sturgeon urged the Government yesterday to lay off the ‘Project Fear’ strategy and instead focus on spelling out the positive reasons for remaining in the EU. Unfortunately, it seems it’ll take the Prime Minister some time to heed that advice. Cameron will warn today that Brexit would ramp up the price of a holiday. He’ll argue later that:

‘The choice facing the British people on 23 June is increasingly clear: the certainty and economic security of remaining in the EU, or a leap in the dark that would raise prices – including the cost of a family holiday. All the evidence points to the value of the pound falling after a vote to leave the EU. A weaker pound means people’s hard-earned savings won’t go as far on holidays overseas.’

Whilst in the short term, the cost of a family holiday in Europe might well rise, this scarcely seems like a valid reason for remaining in a political union. It’s also an effect that could be replicated by lots of different reasons – whether Britain stays in the European Union or not. And what’s more, there’s an obvious flip side to Cameron’s argument that a more expensive holiday in Europe could be a boon to Britain’s own tourism industry. The argument goes that if it costs more to travel overseas, then Brits will be more inclined to stay in the UK for their summer holidays. And even the most ardent remain campaign would find it difficult to spin that into being a bad thing.

What’s more, David Cameron’s economic argument here also falls flat in focusing solely on the cost of holidays. Yes, a weaker pound might mean that Brits get less for their money in Spain. But a weaker currency also makes our goods cheaper for people from abroad to buy – making British goods more attractive to investors. In turn, this could help the economy and is a price worth paying for holidaymakers getting a little less bang for their buck.

It’s also wise to be suspicious of the somewhat precise figures being touted by the remain campaign on this holiday argument. The cost of a nine-night stay in Spain, we’re told, will rise by £225. Whilst four people going to France for eight days will apparently have to fork out an extra £210. These questionable figures tell us nothing and shouldn’t act as an incentive to vote to remain. Prices for holidays fluctuate all the time and many holidaymakers have a more straightforward strategy for dealing with them rather than insisting Britain remains a member of the European Union: booking a cheaper hotel, or, as mentioned, choosing to stay in the UK for a break instead.

Finally, today’s warning is also backed up by easyJet’s chief executive Carolyn McCall. She’s no stranger to wading into the Brexit debate, having said before that leaving the EU would be bad news for Britain. Her argument then didn’t hold water and nor does it now. McCall tells us that:

‘For easyJet and our passengers membership of the EU has been a good thing. The common aviation area created by the EU allows any European airline to fly anywhere in Europe.’

It seems barely worth breaking down this argument. But suffice to say that airlines all over the world find little restriction in flying between countries which don’t share a political union. And the most obvious example of a low-cost airline doing just that is in Norway, where the country’s main budget airline, Norwegian airlines, is thriving: it’s the third biggest budget airline in Europe and has grown in size – both in terms of the number of planes it has as well as passenger numbers – for each of the last 11 years. Although it might be smaller than easyJet, it seems difficult to ignore Norwegian as an example of an airline doing well outside of the EU.

So whilst we don’t learn anything new from today’s warnings about Brexit leaving holidaymakers worse off, we do learn something about the remain campaign’s argument: David Cameron, it seems, isn’t going to lay off Project Fear any time soon.

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