“Rapid progress” was reportedly being made on the arrangements for a post-Brexit aviation landscape, said Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.
Grayling reported that deals were being made with countries such as the United States and Canada. Furthermore, he boldly declared that it was “inconceivable” that flights would be halted when Britain separates itself from the European Union in March 2019.
“It’s not going to happen,” Grayling said.
“I think it’s a big leap to believe, if you take one example, that the Spanish government will not want planes to fly from the UK to Spain in the summer of 2019,” Grayling added while speaking from the Airport Operators Association Annual Conference.
Grayling declared that the economic impact for Spain “would be enormous.”
Queried whether Germany and France would make moves to limit Britain’s access to their markets, Grayling answered: “What I would say is if the French were in the business of closing down air routes between France and the UK, why did Air France and KLM spend hundreds of millions of pounds in buying a stake in Virgin Atlantic, which is predominantly a transatlantic airline running out of Heathrow?
Earlier this month, the chancellor was quoted as saying that it was “theoretically conceivable” planes could stop flying, but that nobody was sure if that would actually happen.
Airline and aviation executives also relayed to MPs on the Transport Select Committee that they were hopeful planes will continue fly, regardless of the outcome of Brexit talks.
British Airways owner IAG’s chief executive Willie Walsh said:
“The prospect of there being no flying between the UK and Europe, I don’t agree with at all, because it goes well beyond that. I think this would bring the whole of Europe to a standstill. It’s not just about isolating the UK.”
Meanwhile, Grayling commented that aside from seeking “a positive open skies agreement with the European Union,” they were gaining ground on talks with third countries. As it is, services to destinations, such as Canada and the U.S., are regulated by EU-negotiated arrangements.
“I am pleased to say that we are making rapid progress towards securing post-Brexit arrangements with those countries,” Grayling announced.
In related matters, Heathrow’s Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye, stated that the aviation sector should shift their focus on the positive impact that Brexit brings.
“I hope we’ve moved on from worrying about Brexit to looking at the opportunities that come out of Brexit, and showing how the aviation sector can play a positive part in making sure Britain is a winner as we leave the EU,” Holland-Kaye said.
“We tend to look at the negatives in Brexit, and the anxiety around it, but actually, Brexit has highlighted just what an important role aviation plays in the UK’s economy,” he added.
He did however, emphasized the significance of preparing aviation agreements for Britain’s departure from the bloc.
“We are not just another economic sector, we are the enabler for all other economic sectors,” the Heathrow boss said.
“Unless special aviation arrangements are put in place, it doesn’t matter having WTO [World Trade Organization] agreements for other sectors,” he added. “If you’re trying to get your pharmaceuticals around the world, you just physically won’t be able to get them there, unless we have the right aviation agreements.”