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EU will aim to avoid 'absurd' flight disruption after Brexit

The European Union will use upcoming trade talks with the UK to seek to avoid the "particularly absurd" prospect of flights between the two blocs being disrupted following Brexit, European Council president Donald Tusk says.

In a speech today laying out the European Union’s negotiating stance in upcoming trade talks with the UK, Tusk says that the two parties "must start discussions on this [flight disruption] issue as soon as possible".

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary has previously warned that a ‘hard’ Brexit could result in a temporary disruption of flights between the UK and EU – a scenario which the European Commission’s director-general for Mobility and Transport Henrik Hololei told FlightGlobal on 6 March was not "impossible" to envisage.

Tusk says that as a result of the UK government’s plan to leave the EU’s single market, the customs union and the jurisdiction of European Court of Justice, this left the option of seeking to conclude a trade agreement with the UK "covering all sectors and with zero tariffs on goods".

The EU will also require an air transport agreement, combined with an aviation safety agreement, to ensure a "strong level playing field in a highly competitive sector".

In a joint statement airport associations ACI Europe and the AOA welcomed the comments "This charts the way forward for the future aviation relationship and thus potentially reduces uncertainty for our sector," it says.

"We call both on EU27 and UK negotiators to seek a future agreement that mirrors as closely as possible today’s arrangements. We note that the draft EU guidelines do not consider the rights of UK airlines to keep flying within the EU27 nor the right of EU27 airlines to keep flying within the UK, as a result of the UK leaving the single aviation market," they add.

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