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IAG chief sets out Brexit priorities

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh is lobbying for a comprehensive air transport agreement that would give airlines from the UK and the 27 remaining EU member nations "all the freedoms of the air" post-Brexit.

Addressing the European Parliament's transport and tourism committee on 11 July, Walsh urged negotiators from both sides to conclude an agreement that was "similar" to, if not "more open" than, the open-skies frameworks the European bloc has with the USA, Canada and other third-party states.

Such an agreement should allow airlines from each side to operate "between and within each other's territories", argues Walsh.

"It should also clarify that airlines in the UK and the EU27 can continue to be owned by nationals of either party without the need for complex ownership and control structures being put in place," he says.

"With policy support, it should be relatively straightforward to agree a deal on aviation that will be ready when the UK leaves the EU."

He stresses the urgency of the situation, noting that unlike other sectors aviation cannot "fall back" on World Travel Organization rules, while air tickets need to be sold a year in advance, creating a need for "certainty" by March 2018, or 12 months before the UK is due to leave the EU.

The IAG chief believes the UK should remain a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency. He says the aviation industry recognises that the UK "contributes significantly" to the work of the agency and he is eager for this to continue.

He suggests some a "joint committee or some other form" of governance framework could be put in place to facilitate this.

Reacting to concerns expressed by Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary that flights between the UK and the rest of the EU could temporarily cease after Brexit, Walsh said he remained "optimistic" that "we will see a resolution to the challenges that we face and that Ryanair will continue to fly between the UK and Europe".

Walsh declares: "I would hate to see a situation where Ryanair is unable to operate flights from the UK to the EU27, in the same way as I would hate to see a case where EasyJet is unable to operate flights within the EU27."

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