Ryanair CEO warns hard Brexit will ground flights

Ryanair airplanes stand on the tarmac at the Brussels' South Airport near Charleroi, Belgium, 10 August 2018. Hundreds of Ryanair flights were cancelled starting 10 August in Europe as other Ryanair pilots from Sweden, Ireland and Germany were on strike too. [Julien Warnand/EPA/EFE]

Ryanair’s chief executive stepped up his warning about the risk of flights between Britain and Europe being grounded for days in the wake of Britain’s exit from the European Union next March, saying there had been no assurances on the issue.

Michael O’Leary, the boss of Europe’s biggest low-cost airline, has long warned that Brexit could stop flights, taking a more pessimistic view than many of his rival airline bosses.

He said on Wednesday (12 September)that the risk of a no-deal Brexit was growing.

“Flights to and from Europe will be stopped in a hard deal Brexit,” the Irishman told a news conference in London. “There is no assurance.”

The CEO of rival carrier easyJet said last week that he had been reassured by both Brussels and London that at least a basic agreement would be in place to enable flights to continue after Brexit next March.

O’Leary said that there were no guarantees, and he called on Britain’s Transport Minister Chris Grayling to prepare an alternative arrangement with the EU to ensure flights could continue in the event that there is no overall deal between Britain and the bloc.

“I do think it’s possible that there will be an agreement on flights between the UK and the European 27 (countries), I’m just not sure that that will be reached in time for the first of April next year if there’s a hard Brexit,” he said.

Britain would struggle to agree separate deals with the 27 individual EU member states, he said, dismissing media reports that the country was looking to do this on flying rights, instead of one deal between the UK and the bloc.

He said a grounded flights scenario would not last more than “a couple of days or a couple of weeks”.

“I think that politically it will get solved pretty damn quickly,” he added.

O’Leary said that the best case scenario for Ryanair was that Britain and the EU implement a transition period of 21 months, so existing flying rights could continue.

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