Thursday 15 October 2020 2:02 pm

Brexit: No deal could ground UK-EU flights, Grant Shapps admits

The transport secretary has admitted that a no-deal Brexit could lead to flights between the UK and EU grounded from the beginning of next year.

Speaking at travel trade body ABTA’s virtual conference, Grant Shapps admitted that with just 78 days to go before the end of the transition period, the two sides were still not in agreement over new laws for aviation.

Under the existing system, airlines from the UK and EU are free to fly whichever routes they wish.

However, this arrangement is set to lapse on 1 January, and as yet, a replacement arrangement has yet to be put in place, the Independent first reported. 

Shapps said: “For road and aviation, both sides are in broad agreement that operators from the UK and the EU should have rights to provide services between the UK and EU and that will be the basis of agreement.

“We hope it will be possible to agree some sensible additional flexibilities. Despite public statements from Brussels we are not seeking to replicate our current single-market rights.

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“We are rather exploring some limited additional flexibilities for both road and air that would be of benefit to both sides. We hope the EU will engage with these.

“Negotiations as you know have been intensified in recent weeks, and although time’s now tight, we remain hopeful that an agreement can be achieved.

“We expect the EU to bring forward contingency measures, as they’ve done before, to ensure flights will continue if negotiations are unsuccessful.

“Of course we would look to reciprocate that”, he finished.

The prospect of grounding short-haul flights to the EU, which currently make up the majority of all airline trips, would be another devastating blow for the aviation industry.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said: “The government’s priority is to ensure that flights can continue to operate safely, securely and punctually between the UK/EU at the end of transition period, regardless of the outcome of negotiations.

“Air travel is vital for both the UK and the EU in connecting people and facilitating trade and tourism, and we are confident measures will be in place to allow for continued air connectivity beyond the end of 2020.”

Rail arrangements through the Eurostar will not be affected, Shapps added.