A host of the UK's biggest airports have submitted a report to government warning that uncertainty about securing a Brexit deal risks sparking a slump in air travel.
Sky News obtained the report written by consultancy WPI Economics, and submitted to the government by Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Manchester and Stansted. It calls on the European Union and the government to target October next year as the deadline for an interim aviation agreement to be set.
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The aviation industry has been vocal over the need to get an early deal in place, and has warned that flights from the UK could be disrupted if a new legal framework is not agreed by March 2019.
And earlier this month, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary met transport secretary Chris Grayling for crunch talks over airlines' flight rights post-Brexit, and has said his airline could move all planes out of Britain after Brexit, if no aviation deal is agreed in good time.
According to Sky News, the report's most downcast outcome forecasts that between March 2018 and 2019, there could be a 41 per cent fall in passenger demand across Britain's biggest airports, which would equate to 16.2m journeys. It also warns there could be a 20.6 per cent decline in aircraft movements.
A Heathrow spokesperson said:
Government continues to engage effectively with the aviation industry and we are confident they understand our sector and the role it plays for the wider economy.
Like all UK businesses, we and other airports, are working together with government looking at the impacts and opportunities of Brexit. This work remains ongoing whilst negotiations are underway and we continue to work closely with our government on all Brexit matters.
The government has said aviation is "absolutely crucial to the UK's economy and we are committed to getting the right deal for Britain". It has repeatedly said that it wants to ensure the UK has "liberal access to European aviation markets" and that new aviation arrangements are a "top priority" for the government.