Monday 17 December 2018

UK admits it 'must prepare' for Brexit hit to flights

Theresa May is finding a withdrawal agreement elusive. Photo: PA
Theresa May is finding a withdrawal agreement elusive. Photo: PA
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

The UK has admitted it has a "duty to prepare for the alternative" in the event that it can't reach an agreement with the EU regarding unrestricted access to the trading bloc's airspace once the UK leaves the union next year.

Airlines including Ryanair have previously warned that flights between the UK and the EU may be grounded - at least temporarily - from next spring if a deal cannot be hammered out that will permit open skies to continue between the two geographies.

Asked in written questions in the UK parliament if the EU has banned aviation regulators from having backstop talks with the UK to keep planes flying in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department of Transport, Liz Sugg, conceded that was the case.

"We are in discussions with Taskforce 50 on this matter but, at present, the European Aviation Safety Agency has not been permitted to talk to the UK Civil Aviation Authority regarding contingency planning," she said.

Taskforce 50 is the EU body charged with coordinating the European Commission's work on all strategic, operational, legal and financial issues related to negotiations with the United Kingdom.

"We have full confidence in the implementation period but we also have a duty to plan for the alternative," said Ms Sugg.

The so-called implementation period agreed between UK and the European Union would see the UK transition from the EU during a period that would last until the end of 2020.

But the transition deal is contingent on the UK and the EU agreeing an elusive final withdrawal treaty.

Airlines have already been making their own contingency plans to deal with the fall-out of Brexit. Earlier this year, Ryanair applied for an air operator's certificate from the UK's Civil Aviation Authority to enable it to keep operating domestic routes there.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said in May that the airline is planning for a hard Brexit.

Ms Sugg has asked for EU aviation regulators to be able to engage with each other regarding Brexit.

"Under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, the European Aviation Safety Agency basic regulation will continue to apply throughout the time-limited implementation period, but we believe that discussions on EU exit between aviation regulators would be beneficial at this stage," she said.

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