26 Jul 2017

Brexit May Ground Ryanair Flights if Open Skies Deal Not Agreed by Autumn 2018

Ryanair Plane on Runway

A top Ryanair executive has warned that flights could be cancelled if an agreement on the ‘open skies’ pact is not hammered out before next autumn.

As part of the EU, UK planes can fly into any country signed up to the pact. But when we leave the EU, all flights involving open skies countries may have to cease if the UK has not become a signatory to the deal. The UK needs a bilateral agreement with Europe to stay in the open skies pact, but there are major obstacles to this happening. The open skies pact is linked to freedom of movement – one of the ‘red lines’ that Theresa May says is not negotiable in the Brexit talks.

Neil Sorohan, Ryanair’s chief financial officer, said the UK could become a “no-fly zone” if agreement is not reached before Brexit, due to the legal uncertainty created. Mr Sorahan warned that the chances of the UK remaining in the agreement appear “narrower by the day”.

Ryanair warn that if agreement is not reached by autumn next year, they may have to relocate some of their UK-based planes to continental Europe, and cancel other flights altogether.

Mr Sorohan, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today show, said: “Unfortunately, if we go back to the World Trade Organisation rules, there is nothing that covers such flights between the EU and the UK.”

“So barring having a bilateral agreement in place there won’t be flights for a period of time and that’s why we’re very much trying to get everybody onside so that we can get everybody around the table and get this negotiated.”

“If a bilateral is not agreed by the autumn of 2018, the likelihood of it being ratified through the various parliaments around Europe and in the UK by March 2019 is very slim. If the UK government and the EU, and this is presuming we’re looking at a hard Brexit and they don’t decide to stay in open skies, which would be the ideal situation for everyone, where nothing would change. But let’s assume it is a hard Brexit, then we need a bilateral negotiation between the UK and the EU27.”

Mr Sorohan continued, “Ryanair will clearly work in the best interests of our shareholders and customers to ensure we capitalise on all opportunities that are in the market….. We’re working hard with the various interest groups in Europe and in the UK to try and get people to start moving this along at a pace that makes sense because the clock is ticking down.”


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