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Leaving the EU: Aviation Industry

Volume 639: debated on Thursday 19 April 2018

8. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the future of the aviation industry after the UK leaves the EU. (904817)

19. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the future of the aviation industry after the UK leaves the EU. (904828)

23. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the future of the aviation industry after the UK leaves the EU. (904833)

I meet my right hon. Friends and Cabinet colleagues on a regular basis to discuss the UK’s exit from the EU. Ministers and officials across Departments are working closely to consider carefully the implications for the aviation sector after we leave the EU.

Last month we heard that the first formal talks on a post-Brexit open skies deal with the US were cut short after US negotiators offered an inferior deal to the one we currently enjoy, so when does the Secretary of State plan to return to the negotiating table, and will he do so with a sense of reality about the impact that hard Brexit is having on the aviation industry?

The hon. Lady should not believe everything she reads in the papers. The discussions taking place between my Department and our counterparts in the United States have been cordial and have been going well. There are no issues that would act as an impediment towards a sensible post-Brexit agreement between the two countries.

A key requirement in any deal with the US may well be that UK airlines are required to be UK majority owned, yet very few would be able to meet that standard. What are the realistic chances of the US ditching that long-standing policy for the sake of the UK?

Clearly, airline ownership is more complex as part of the European Union than it was in the pre-EU days, but nobody is seriously suggesting that we are not going to continue with the same kind of transatlantic partnerships we have at the moment. British Airways and American Airlines, for example, operate in lockstep with each other. We will progress in due time towards a sensible agreement that continues the extremely prosperous, important and successful transatlantic aviation routes.

We have less than a year to sort this out. Already people who are attempting to book foreign holidays for next Easter, less than a year from now, are finding that they are having to accept a clause in the contract that waives any right to compensation if their holiday is cancelled because of problems with the lack of an open skies agreement. Is the Secretary of State trying to tell us that those reports from reputable travel agents are myths that we should not believe? Is it not a fact that the travel industry and the aviation industry understand how serious this problem is becoming and the Government, in their complacency, do not?

That is not accurate at all, as the hon. Gentleman will find if he listens to the chief executives of the International Airlines Group, EasyJet or a number of other airlines. I have had no airline, bar one, come to my desk and suggest that they are concerned about the situation. I think we know which the one is, and no other airline believes there is any likelihood of any impediment to aviation next year. Indeed, there will not be. Can you imagine, Mr Speaker, a situation where the Spanish, Italian, Portuguese or Greek Governments did not want holidaymakers to arrive from the United Kingdom in 2019? I have spoken to my counterparts and they snort with derision at the idea that the planes will not fly.

Snorting with derision may be the response the Secretary of State has had, but people in my constituency who work in the aviation industry are really concerned about how we are going to function outwith the European Aviation Safety Agency. Will he please tell us a bit more about how we are going to function outwith the EASA?

The Civil Aviation Authority is making all preparations necessary if it needs to return to operating as a body in the form that it used to be in. However, it is the Government’s policy and our intent to remain part of EASA. There is no reason not to: countries inside and outside the European Union are part of it, and we supply a substantial proportion of its expertise. The leadership of EASA wants us to stay, and I am confident that, as we get through the process of negotiation, that is where we will end up.