Flights could be grounded in wake of no-deal Brexit, Irish aviation boss warns

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Flights between Ireland and the United Kingdom could be grounded if there is no Brexit deal, the head of Ireland’s aviation authority has warned.

Michael McGrail, the chair of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), said that if the UK crashes out of the EU next March there would be a practical danger that flights to the UK would come to a halt.

In his evidence to Ireland’s  transport, tourism and sport committee on Wednesday, Mr McGrail spoke of the challenges the aviation industry faces in the wake of a hard Brexit saying the implications would start from midnight on March 29, the date the UK leaves the EU.

Volcanic ash causes travel disruption
An Aer Lingus flight leaves Dublin airport (Niall Carson/PA)

“Given the apparent impasse between the UK and the EU, a satisfactory withdrawal agreement, transition period and then future relationship is in doubt,” he said.

“Apart from the disruption for aviation and the travelling public, a hard Brexit would have a significant negative impact on our wider economy.

“The Department (of Transport) is carrying out scenario planning to ensure minimal negative consequences and the IAA is working in close collaboration with the department and other agencies in this regard.”

He was further probed about the practical implications for the public and whether a no-deal Brexit would result in flights coming to an abrupt end.

“If there is a hard Brexit, then the UK becomes a third country and therefore both the air traffic management and air safety regulations that currently govern, not only the UK but the rest of Europe, would fall away.

Jennifer Lauren court case
Shannon Airport in the west of Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

“Having said that we know the Department is working on practical solutions to that and they have a number of scenarios they are looking at and we are working closely with them to see how those scenarios would actually work.

“The IAA nor the Irish Government can control this. It’s very much the EU.”

When asked if there is a “practical danger” that flights to the UK would halt, he said there would be.

He referred to a report produced by British government officials earlier this week which also stated that fights will be grounded if no deal is struck between the UK and the EU.

“There’s a lot to be done between now and then and I don’t think it would be in anyone’s interests for that to happen,” he added.

Under the EU’s Open Skies agreement, airlines operate within a single aviation market which covers regulations relating to safety.

Mr McGrail said there was a general passporting of traffic and safety within all of Europe, and if a member leaves they therefore leave the passporting approval process.

He added that he was particularly aware of the importance of the UK in the aviation industry because Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Boeing all have substantial facilities in the country that supply the sector with parts.

He added: “It will be forming part of the discussion we will have with the department in terms of hopefully avoiding a hard Brexit.”

Meanwhile Ireland’s European Affairs minister Helen McEntee told a parliamentary committee that time was running out in the Brexit negotiations.

She said a legally operable backstop, which avoids a harder border on the island of Ireland, was essential to a deal being reached.

“It is imperative that the UK in these final stages of the negotiations engage with the issues identified in the protocol, to achieve progress by the October European Council,” she said.

Ms McEntee added that change was coming and that the Government was making every effort to make sure that citizens and businesses throughout the country would be Brexit-ready when the day arrives.

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