3 APRIL 2017
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Whatever one thinks of the UK’s democratically arrived at decision to leave the EU, the die is now cast. Britain has signed Article 50 and we are on our way to the exit door.
Cue the predictable scare stories, including the Gibraltar farrago at the weekend, reminiscent of Project Fear and sadly likely to continue until something concrete emerges from the negotiations. An early salvo came from The Guardian, which reported that “EU officials have warned UK-based airlines that they will have to axe their routes within continental Europe unless they relocate their headquarters to the EU and sell shares to EU nationals post-Brexit”.
Fortunately there have been some wiser voices pointing out there is a long way to go, while still suggesting the aviation industry has priorities warranting consideration.
Airports Council International (ACI) Europe was one body to express concerns about uncertainty over the rules that will come to govern aviation between the UK and the remaining EU member states (EU27).
“This needs to be quickly resolved to provide clarity for passengers, airlines and airports so as to enable continued investment in growing our collective connectivity,” the group said in a statement.
The airport trade association also cautioned about the economic consequences of the UK aviation market not remaining closely integrated within the EU27 aviation market.
ACI Europe director-general Olivier Jankovec told a London conference the “sequencing” of the Brexit negotiations meant talks would focus initially on agreeing exit terms before looking at defining the new relationship between the UK and the EU27 as of 2019.
“This implies the aviation industry will be left in the dark for many more months to come about what will happen,” Jankovec warned, a matter that needed to be “quickly resolved”.
Similarly, Charlie Cornish, chief executive of MAG, the body that owns Manchester, Stansted, East Midlands and Bournemouth airports, said negotiators must prioritise the agreement of a framework for air travel to provide early certainty to passengers and airlines about their ability to fly post-Brexit.
He added: “Business travellers and holiday makers alike expect to be able to continue to fly between the UK and Europe, and for this reason it has to be a common goal for both sides to agree during 2017 either a temporary or permanent solution for how aviation will operate after April 2019.”
In fact, as some stories last week began to hint, the EU is likely to discover it needs to continue to work and trade with the UK long after the Brexit negotiations are done and dusted. In aviation, little is likely to change – inbound traffic healthily exceeds outbound. As most sensible people agree, the best thing is to wait and see.
As a footnote, as predictable as the scare stories, there has been the noise emanating from a certain Dublin-based carrier whose previous antics have been aimed largely at generating yet more publicity for its operation. One suspects a similar motive this time.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
David Bentley, Manchester/UK
I was at the ACI conference. The afternoon session, post-Jankovec, was dominated by a miserable bunch of oh, woe-is-me, anti-‘Brexit’ panellists. While Rigas Doganis was accurate in his assessment (and yes, some airlines are going to have to sell equity to continue to operate in Europe, why do you think O’Leary is moaning again) they missed the point. Aviation, I’m afraid, is well down the government’s worry sheet where Brexit is concerned. The City is at the top and aviation probably not even in the top 10 of ‘to-dos’. If aviation was important to it, there’d be no APD. BUT, the government’s position, couched in a couple of paragraphs is clear-cut. (a) We wish to perpetuate the status quo as far as possible, preferably by remaining as a participant in the ‘single open sky’ by way of the Common Aviation Area. Or (b) If not, we will re-negotiate air service agreements by way of bilateral negotiations. (That could be either with the EU, or with individual countries). And that’s it. That is what will happen. Stop worrying.
Richard Gardner, Farnborough
Congratulations on a balanced and sensible summary of the aviation implications of Artile 50.The UK national media is guilty of generating Project Fear Mk2, talking up every possible negative aspect of Brexit. It is in nobody's interest to upset today's level of integrated commercial air operations for political motives, so the Remoaners should concentrate their efforts on helping to navigate through the storm instead of just complaining about potential problems that will no doubt in due course be overcome by market forces and a resolve to be successful.