Saturday 22 July 2017

Ross has failed to meet with UK or EU counterparts amid Brexit fears

Fianna Fáil angry at 'simply incredible' admission while aviation industry warns of deep concerns

Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Tom Burke
Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Tom Burke

Colm Kelpie and Ralph Riegal

Transport, Tourism and Sport Minister Shane Ross has failed to meet with any of his British or EU counterparts since the Brexit vote last June.

Despite the implications of the UK's EU withdrawal for the transport and tourism industries in Ireland, the minister has revealed that only his civil servants have met with EU and British government representatives.

"I have not had the opportunity to meet with my UK counterpart or my other EU counterparts since the British referendum on Brexit took place," Mr Ross said.

A spokesman for Mr Ross told the Irish Independent that the minister had met with his Northern Ireland counterpart.

But he confirmed that no meeting had taken place with his counterpart in Britain or counterparts from other EU countries on issues related to transport or tourism since the UK's EU referendum.

Mr Ross would have been due to meet his transport counterparts at an EU council meeting in December, but could not attend because it clashed with a road safety event at home, the spokesman added.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The next transport council meeting is due to take place in June.

Brexit has significant implications for many sectors that fall under Mr Ross's brief, including the haulage and aviation industries.

There are concerns about whether Britain will be able to retain access to the EU's Open Skies agreement after Brexit. This has implications for carriers such as Ryanair.

Halted

Open Skies, which allows EU airlines to fly to and from any airport within the bloc, has been a key element in Ryanair's business model.

The carrier has already warned that flights from the UK could be halted for weeks or months if an early aviation deal is not reached.

The admissions came in response to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy. Mr Troy said that it was "simply incredible" that Mr Ross had yet to meet with his EU or British counterparts to discuss the implications of Brexit for Irish aviation.

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The news came as John Callinan, the second secretary general in the Department of the Taoiseach dealing with Brexit, said there were "huge issues" in aviation that needed to be addressed.

Mr Callinan also confirmed that the Government did not seek "special status" for Northern Ireland because it would not be clear what that means.

Liam Irwin, of the Revenue Commissioners, said the volume of customs declarations handled by Revenue is expected to surge tenfold in the event of a hard Brexit. He also said scenario planning includes having 'trade facilitation' posts sited about 15km from the Border to allow for checks, but he said locations have not been identified.

Meanwhile, the ACI European Regional Airports group told its conference in Cork yesterday that Brexit remained a source of major concern for the aviation industry. ACI Europe director general Olivier Jankovec stressed that the imminent UK withdrawal from the EU remained a major concern.

"With the clock ticking for the exit of the UK in less than two years, this is becoming a deeply concerning and consuming issue for many regional airports across Europe," he said.

In a statement, Mr Ross said his department had engaged extensively at official level with other government departments and agencies; with transport and tourism stakeholders both North and south and with UK and EU counterparts on a range of issues relating to Brexit.

"I have been fully briefed on these engagements and I also met directly with stakeholders, particularly when hosting, with Minister of State (Patrick) O'Donovan, the All-Island Sectoral Dialogues on both transport and tourism, held in Dundalk in January. I will be attending the EU Transport Council of Ministers in Luxembourg on June 8 where I will meet with my EU counterparts. I also intend to arrange a meeting with [EU Transport] Commissioner (Violeta) Bulc on a number of matters, including Brexit."

Irish Independent

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