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Monarch collapse: Politicians scrap over EU vote effect

UK politicians have clashed in parliament over the degree to which the decision to withdraw from the European Union influenced the collapse of leisure carrier Monarch Airlines.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling insisted that the airline's failure was "not an issue about Brexit", as he defended the government's handling of the aftermath during a 9 October parliamentary session on 9 October.

"The airline had been struggling for three years and the first concerns were raised about it long before the referendum was even held," he said.

Monarch itself had cited "depressed bookings" in the run-up to, and immediately after, the June 2016 referendum, in its last full-year financial results. It also noted the "longer-term impact" on its operations from the subsequent devaluation of the UK currency against the euro and US dollar, in which a substantial portion of its costs were denominated.

Labour party member Andy McDonald told Grayling that Monarch's collapse resulted from a "litany of failures" by the government, regulator, and the airline's financial backers, amid a "backdrop" of the "foggy skies of Brexit".

But Scottish National Party member Patricia Gibson was more direct, insisting that the demise of Monarch was a "stark example of the realities of Brexit beginning to bite" and highlighting the currency effects and booking decline.

"Add to that the uncertainties over the future of British carriers in Europe, that served as a significant deterrent for any potential buyer who might otherwise have been found, and Monarch's fate was sealed," she added.

Grayling rejected the link to the UK referendum, claiming that Monarch failed because its business model was not capable of dealing with a "price war", as carriers switched away from troubled eastern Mediterranean routes to compete aggressively in the western region.

He pointed out that airline companies such as Norwegian, Jet2 and Air France-KLM have recently been investing in the UK aviation sector.

"Let me be absolutely clear," he said. "This airline did not fail because of Brexit."

Grayling's claim was notably backed by Conservative party member Anna Soubry who – despite being a strong opponent of the UK's withdrawal from the EU – said that the Monarch collapse had "absolutely nothing to do with Brexit", adding: "Those who seek to make it an issue based on Brexit do not do anybody any favours."

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