British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh has dismissed scare stories that leaving the EU without a formal Brexit deal could see air travel grind to a halt.
“The prospect of there being no flying between the UK and Europe, I don’t agree with at all,” said Mr. Walsh during a question and answer session with the House of Commons Transport Committee, Sky News reports.
“This would bring all of Europe to a standstill.”
The remarks will be interpreted as something of a rebuke to Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip ‘Remainer Phil’ Hammond, widely regarded as the Cabinet’s leading Remainer and the minister fighting hardest for a lengthy transition period and, previously, a so-called ‘Soft Brexit’, which would see Britain kept inside the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union.
Appearing before the Transport select committee himself in early October, the chancellor had intimated that it was “theoretically conceivable in a No Deal scenario there will be no air traffic moving between the UK and EU on 29th March, 2019″ — a statement which was seized on by EU loyalists and the Remainer press, despite Hammond adding that he didn’t think “anybody seriously believes that is where we will get to”.
Unhelpful interventions like this have caused many senior Leave supporters, such as Tory grandee Lord Lawson, to indict Hammond for sabotage.
it's almost as if Hammond doesn't want Britain to leave the EU at all https://t.co/sSFDtWFMtS
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 18, 2017
The BA chief explained that there are “technical ways of addressing any scenario” after Brexit, while Heathrow Airport chief John Holland-Kaye emphasised the importance of Anglo-EU air travel to the European Union.
“From an EU point of view it’s just as much in their interest to have continuity after Brexit as it is for us,” he explained, pointing out the vital contribution of British tourists to the Spanish economy as an example.
“It is inconceivable they would have any discontinuity.”
He also revealed that German air company Lufthansa had slots at his airport worth around £760m, and pointed out this is “not something they’re going to give up lightly”.