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Airports

Concerns crystallise over impact of hard Brexit

13 July 2017

Key Points

  • Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary warns a European Parliament hearing that hard Brexit would be “one of the great suicide acts in history”
  • UK speakers call for comprehensive aviation deal with EU but European executives are more cautious, wary of competition from a deregulated UK post-Brexit

Battle lines were drawn over future UK access to European markets, during a European Parliament hearing on the effects of a hard Brexit on aviation.

Addressing a meeting of the EP Transport Committee on 11 July 2017, UK airport and airline executives pleaded for open Single Market access - but their continental counterparts held their cards very close to their chest, insisting on strict “level playing field” conditions.

IAG CEO Willie Walsh (pictured in May 2017) is urging the EU and UK to agree a wide-ranging bilateral aviation deal, similar to EU-US and EU-Canada agreements, to mitigate the effects of Brexit. Source: PAIAG CEO Willie Walsh (pictured in May 2017) is urging the EU and UK to agree a wide-ranging bilateral aviation deal, similar to EU-US and EU-Canada agreements, to mitigate the effects of Brexit. Source: PA

“We would like to see a transition deal that maintains today’s conditions as much as possible. We all want the UK to be as aligned as closely as possible to the EU’s single aviation market,” said Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye. He added that a hard Brexit for aviation, in which the UK government would leave the EU without agreeing its terms of departure, must be “entirely” avoided because otherwise “it would be a colossal failure”.

Similar concerns were expressed by Willie Walsh, CEO of the International Airlines Group (IAG) that controls Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling. Registered in Spain, IAG is listed on the London and Spanish stock exchanges but its global business is run from Krakow in Poland.

“The EU and UK should sign a comprehensive agreement similar to the one that the EU has with Canada, the US and others but even deeper in recognition of the deeper relationship between the UK and EU,” Walsh said.

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