Thursday 17 August 2017

Ross 'must step up to plate' in talks with EU chiefs

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross Picture: Steve Humphreys
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross Picture: Steve Humphreys

Gavin White

Minister Shane Ross needs to step up and "show leadership" to ensure travel and trade with the UK is not affected post-Brexit, according to the chairman of the Regional and Business Airports group.

Minister Shane Ross needs to step up and "show leadership" to ensure travel and trade with the UK is not affected post-Brexit, according to the chairman of the Regional and Business Airports group.

The former CEO of Shannon Airport Neil Pakey has called for better leadership from Transport, Tourism and Sport Minister after it was revealed by the Irish Independent that Mr Ross has failed to meet any of his EU counterparts since the Brexit vote.

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, which would have implications for carriers such as Ryanair.

Mr Pakey said the minister needs to "show leadership in the EU by influencing other EU transport ministers".

Mr Pakey formerly worked within the Transport Directorate of the European Commission and was part of the team that created the European Open Skies agreement in place today.

"Aviation is a rare breed in that it is not part of the world trade agreement or any other free trade body," he said.

"So it is absolutely crucial that those in charge of transport and connectivity do all they can if they value trading with Britain, or indeed if they simply want to continue the levels of flight connectivity we currently enjoy."

Mr Pakey said Mr Ross was "the minister for connectivity, as the air services between Ireland and the UK are what keeps trade and tourism going in both countries".

"Whilst Brexit is Britain's doing, those voting for it in the UK simply do not realise that post-Brexit, there is no legal framework for air services between Britain and the rest of Europe, including between Britain and Ireland," he said.

Mr Pakey said that legal framework needs to be at the "top of the list of priorities" for the minister and that Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary was "right to question" the continued connectivity between Ireland and the UK post-brexit. He said that EU transport ministers needed to "realise that an open trade agreement with Britain for continued air services is the priority".

"It will need to be resolved at EU level and this is why meeting European transport ministers must be the Transport Minister's priority.

"This is particularly important from a regional perspective as we created the single sky to facilitate greater regional air connectivity and it is absolutely vital that we establish the legal framework for this to continue," he said.

Aidan Flynn, head of the Freight Transport Association Ireland, last week said it was "incredible" that Mr Ross has failed to meet any of his UK or EU counterparts since the Brexit vote.

Verona Murphy, head of the Irish Road Haulage Association, said she would be "very surprised if the minister had met them".

Mr Ross and his department did not respond for comment on the situation.

Meanwhile, an opinion poll conducted for an RTÉ One documentary has revealed that four out of five voters believe the Government should be more robust in its Brexit negotiations.

The David McWilliams programme 'Brexit, Trump and Us', which airs tonight, also revealed that 71pc of people surveyed believed we should stay in the EU even if the Brexit deal is "bad for Ireland".

The survey also said 74pc of people would favour a united Ireland if it made sense following a Brexit deal. A further 82pc believed that the Government should be tougher when dealing with the EU over Brexit.

Irish Independent

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