17 DECEMBER 2018


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Article from BTNews 17 DECEMBER 2018

COMMENT: You cannot be serious

It is ironic that on today of all days (see AND FINALLY), BTN and many others should have to ask whether 31 March will really mean flights between the UK and continental Europe (with the honourable exceptions of Gibraltar, Norway, Switzerland and some Slavic countries) will grind to a halt. In the words of a well-known tennis person: “You cannot be serious”.

Thanks to Project Hysteria, formerly known as Project Fear, it is what many are asking us to believe. The muddle over Brexit into which we have been led by vested interests is now fuelling wild speculation that makes what went before seem almost benign. A calming influence is also published today - the government’s Aviation Strategy Green Paper as transport secretary Chris Grayling flies to the abovementioned Switzerland sealing an agreement that ensures air services will continue operating between the UK and Switzerland after Brexit. The deal guarantees the terms of the current EU-Switzerland agreement on air services, safeguarding the route that carried 6.8m passengers by air in 2017. Are the Swiss about to give that up?

As Grayling said yesterday and has said before: “The UK aviation sector is the biggest in Europe and will play an even more crucial role as we further develop as an outward-looking global nation.

“These agreements will ensure Britain continues to prosper as we leave the EU and I’m confident the UK will reach a mutually beneficial deal, whilst we continue to prepare for all eventualities.”

IATA director-general Alexander de Juniac was also heard on the subject at the association’s Global Media Day last week. Although not part of his planned public address, de Juniac could not avoid the B word and met it head-on.

As background, he noted the “compelling story” air transport had to tell: On the day he spoke, 12m travellers would be transported safely by air; 180,000 tonnes of cargo would be delivered by air; nearly 3m people earn their keep by working in the industry, and about a third of global trade by value – $20bn a day – relies on air.

He went on: “Aviation is a very relevant part of the global economy. Approximately 1% of global GDP – some $900bn – will be spent on air travel in 2019. And that is money well spent.”

Again, BTN asks: Did someone say we’re giving all that up?

De Juniac went on: “You may know that I call aviation the Business of Freedom. Why? Because aviation’s activity liberates people to explore, develop, trade, learn, find business opportunities and much more…essentially to live better lives.”

Brexit, he said, was tied to this general theme. He added: “We don’t have any special insight on how this will play out, but we do know that the industry needs more clarity than we currently have.

“There is no Word Trade Organisation fallback for aviation in the event of a no-deal Brexit. So it is good news that the UK is making progress on renegotiating bilateral deals with non-EU countries and that it is discussing contingency measures with the EU.”

See also IATA Global Media Day in this issue.

This is the last issue of BTN of 2018. We will be back on 7 January 2019. We wish all our readers a happy and fulfilling festive season and a prosperous and hysteria-free new year.

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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

peter morris, London

If you think piecemeal partial deals will give a fraction of the opportunity that UK has enjoyed for 40 years, then words fail me. UK a third country from April is the default, not exception.

David Starkie, London

Most Leavers would accept that there will be some short term disruption leaving on WTO terms, but putting aside arguments that longer term trade benefits will be offsetting, the crucial issue is whether the pain is worth the gain of renewed full Sovereignty, self-determination and securing future superiority of Common Law over Civil Law. The latter points get lost in the economic argument.

Andrew Sharp, Surbiton

BA is a Spanish airline (and therefore EU) with a predominantly UK based shareholding. Today it can fly to anywhere in the EU and the US. In April it can't be an EU registered airline unless it is majority EU owned. And if it is majority EU owned, it can't fly from UK to US - there isn't an Air Services Agreement allowing this.

Pete Lowson, Uk

Think it’s generally agreed that the Leave campaign belittled the warnings of many experts relating to the economic problems that Brexit will cause. We’’re already seeing those. It’s totally irresistible to continue to do this here I believe and I don’t think you’re portraying a balanced argument. Many people across industries will lose their jobs if we leave the EU and that’s a fact.

Jean-Michel PRUDHOMME, St Germain-en-Laye - France

I see no big deal : bilateral agreement and traffic limited to 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Fourth freedoms. Only exception for Eurostar.