Business Leader Blog Posts, EU Referendum Series – Paul Kehoe, Birmingham Airport, Chief Executive

Birmingham Airport

As part of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s EU referendum activity we’ve challenged a selection of business, academic and political leaders to share their views on Brexit or remain and key aspects of the debate so far. All views expresses are those of the authors, not the GBCC:

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

Business Leader Blog Posts, EU Referendum Series – Paul Kehoe, Chief Executive, Birmingham Airport

The fact that the Government is saying to us, ‘you don’t want to vote out or the bogey man will get you’ is very concerning, because if they had any idea that this would be a consequence of the debate on the vote, then they should have never put us in the firing line in the first place. The fact that the outers are saying that UK will get its powers back and we will be sovereign again is as equally disingenuous, especially when we have signed so many international treaties and we are bound by many agreements that determine what we do as a result of our relationships with the global community. My beef is with both.

You cannot know the future – you can guestimate what might happen, you can hypothesise based on probability, but you can never know. Many times the final outcome has gone the opposite way. The last General Election result was not predicted, similarly the outcomes of our membership of the euro, our entry into the ERM, the various battles we have won and lost including at football, cricket and rugby have never been known beforehand. You can bet on a cert but if it doesn’t run, you can’t win.

The decision that the British electorate should take on the 23 June must be one which the electorate are comfortable with. Whatever that decision is, they will have to live with it and make the most of it. A continuation of the argument post-event will not sit well in the world.

It feels like a recession is coming back, some say it is the referendum vote that’s causing it. Certainly there has been a significant slowdown in investment in the country because investors are awaiting on the outcome of the decision but the recession, if it happens, is probably more about UK productivity, the strength of the £, China slowdown, oil prices, Middle East instability, Russian hegemony and its economy, corruption in parts of the world and the impeachment of Presidents and former Presidents in South America. It’s all about life and business cycles and we are caught up in it and, yet, we do need to make this important decision on the future path for our country.

“Head and Heart” are the key determinants here. You can fly the flag, you can claim sovereignty, controlling immigration, you can invoke the curse of terrorism and national security and our place in the world – but just make sure that whatever decision you take, there must be no regrets, no going back. You just have to live with yourself that, for whatever reason you took the decision you did, and you felt hand on heart or head it was the right one for you and your family.

The airport is neutral on the debate, we are completely apolitical but we have informed everyone that the airport has been a beneficiary of the EU policies on aviation deregulation and competition, and that aviation is a force for good in connecting people, cultures and business. I suggest that, in the meantime, you do start to collate the reasons why you might vote one way or the other.


About Paul:

Paul Kehoe joined Birmingham Airport as Chief Executive Officer in October 2008

He started his career in aviation as an Air Traffic Controller in the Royal Air Force and has worked for a variety of companies including British Aerospace plc, Serco Aviation and TBI plc.

Paul has been CEO/MD of a number of UK airports (inc. Belfast International, London Luton and Bristol) and non-executive Director of a number of other UK and overseas airports during his career.

Paul has been an active member of the Airport Operators Association, being a Director and Chair of that organisation 2004-05.  Paul is Chairman of Marketing Birmingham, a member of the Warwick Business School Strategy Board, Board Member on the Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, and is President Elect of Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. 

Paul is married with two children.


About The GBCC’s EU Referendum Series:

According to a recent British Chambers of Commerce survey of West Midlands members, if the referendum were held tomorrow: 45% of members would vote for Britain to stay in the EU and 45% would vote for Britain to leave the EU. As a result, the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce will not be campaigning for either Remain or Leave, given the very real divisions that exist in the local business community.

In the months leading up to the referendum, we are actively surveying business opinion and inform the debate without fear or favour. Additionally, we will be demanding clear information and facts from both the Remain and Leave campaigns so that businesspeople can make an informed choice at the ballot box on the 23rd June.