RYANAIR boss Michael O’Leary has told the European Parliament there will be no flights between the UK and the EU for months after Brexit unless replacements for EU airline agreements are struck.
He warned that Heathrow will be deserted, summer holidays cancelled and Ryanair aircraft moved to Europe.
The current Open Skies agreement allows EU airlines, including those registered in the UK, to operate in each other’s countries.
As aviation cannot fall back on World Trade Organisation rules, sealing a new deal is seen as vital by the CEO of Europe’s largest airline.
But O’Leary warned yesterday that such a deal was ‘an impossibility’ and that the ‘only sensible option’ was for the British government to ignore the Brexit referendum result.
He told the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee in Brussels: “There is a real prospect, and we need to deal with this, that there are going to be no flights between the UK and Europe for a period of weeks, months beyond March 2019.
“There is not going to be an interim agreement, there is not going to be a legal basis, we will be cancelling flights, we will be cancelling people’s holidays for summer of 2019.”
March 2019 is the deadline for Britain to exit the EU. If a Brexit deal is not finalised in time, Britain will leave without an agreement, known as Hard Brexit.
The European Commission, which is handling the Brexit negotiations on behalf of the EU, has refused to discuss anything until a settlement on citizens’ rights and the Brexit bill is reached. The second round of talks will be held in Brussels next week.
O’Leary argued that a clear legal framework was needed by September 2018.
Speaking at the same session, Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group said the EU and UK should sign comprehensive air transport agreements.
“With policy support it ought to be relatively straightforward to agree a deal on aviation that will be ready when the UK leaves the EU,” he said.
But Mr O’Leary retorted: “I think that’s an impossibility because there is no goodwill in Europe towards Britain.
“The French and the Germans, when they have the opportunity to stick one into the British, they like nothing better.”
“This is going to be a real mess,” Mr O’Leary added, “Brexit will be one of the great economic suicide notes in history.
“By September 2018 when your average British voter is sitting down to work out where he is going on his holidays in 2019, the two options he will have are to drive to Scotland or get a ferry to Ireland,” he told MEPs.
“The sensible outcome here is to ignore the plebiscite of 12 months ago, stay in Europe and continue to benefit from Open Skies.
“We’ll be taking a lot of aircraft out of the UK in the April of 2019 and reallocating them to European regional airports and they’ll be seeing a lot more growth than they’ll know how to handle.
“Although Heathrow, thankfully, will be empty probably for a period of months.”