Britain will need its aviation industry "more than ever" post-Brexit, says aviation minister Lord Ahmad

Rebecca Smith
Airlines including EasyJet and Ryanair have been concerned about what Brexit will mean for business
Airlines including EasyJet and Ryanair have been concerned about what Brexit will mean for business (Source: Getty)

Aviation minister Lord Ahmad has told the industry it will be needed "more than ever" with Brexit on the horizon, as airlines seek clarity on what lies ahead.

Ahmad said the government has been clear in its plans and will be "negotiating for a new, comprehensive, free trade agreement" securing the "right access" to European aviation markets.

Airlines have been concerned by what Brexit will mean for their access to a single European aviation market, set to be severely disrupted in the event of a serious break from the European Union.

And speaking at the Airport Operators Association (AOA) annual dinner, Ahmad said that while the UK is living in unpredictable times politically, he thinks there's one prediction that's "safe to make".

"Britain is going to need its aviation industry, its airports, manufacturers and airlines, more than ever, to grow our connections with the world, to show the world we are open for business," he said.

Read more: We need a long-term strategy for aviation to keep London on top

Some airlines, notably Ryanair's Michael O'Leary and other executives, have been vocal in criticising the government's lack of detail on what the plans will be.

Chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs last month called on the government to start moving “very, very quickly” on working out what Brexit will entail, saying “there is a great need for urgency in getting a plan in place”.

Airlines plan a year in advance, so Ryanair and its fellow carriers want guidance by early 2018 on what will be delivered in terms of Open Skies agreements. "Please give us certainty," Jacobs added.

Lord Ahmad repeated comments made by transport secretary Chris Grayling, saying it was in the interests of the UK, the EU, European countries and everyone who lives or travels between them, to seek "a liberal arrangement for aviation".

He sought to reassure the industry that the transport department "is fully aware of the range of issues that concern the sector as we trigger Article 50".

"We are listening, are working to deliver the right package, and I am confident that we are going to get a deal that suits the UK," he said.

Our country has always led the way on aviation, from safety to innovation. We intend that to remain the case.

Ahmad said Britain's bright economic future depended on thing above all: "Britain forging new connections with the world."

When Brexit occurs, the legal framework tied to EU membership will no longer exist, and currently much of Britain's international air traffic is governed by agreements spanning the EU.

The Prime Minister has said she intends to use Britain leaving the EU as an opportunity to make the UK a global free trade champion, negotiating new agreements with the likes of India, China, the US and New Zealand.

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