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Wizz chief foresees 'orderly' Brexit

A recent meeting with UK prime minister Theresa May has left Wizz Air chief executive Jozsef Varadi more hopeful that there will be an "orderly" Brexit.

Speaking at a media event in London on 2 May, Varadi said that the meeting – which took place "a few weeks ago" – had given him confidence that "nothing is going to change for almost two years" during the post-Brexit transition phase, which is to run from 29 March 2019 to 31 December 2020.

"I certainly had the feeling that Brexit might be more orderly than some people might expect or might speculate on," he says.

He suggests that the UK could remain within the EU's open-skies regime and even within the bloc itself.

But Varadi acknowledges the "very speculative" nature of any prediction of how the UK's departure from the EU will play out.

Owain Jones, Wizz's chief corporate officer, says the carrier's newly activated UK subsidiary – Wizz UK – is at present majority-owned by EU nationals and is a legal entity within the country, with its own accountable manager, crew and assets.

Jones says "a number of different structures" could be looked at by the airline should Brexit lead to divergence in ownership and control rules between the UK and the EU, but he warns that "there would be complexity" associated with any of the options.

He notes a historical precedent for "non-UK owned airlines to operate as UK airlines", giving the example of now-defunct Monarch, which was classed as a UK airline despite being owned for many years by the Swiss-Italian Mantegazza family.

Varadi says the biggest impact from Brexit that Wizz has experienced to date has come from the fall in sterling value following the 2016 referendum, which had a negative impact on the airline's revenues.

In terms of underlying demand, the UK market has remained "pretty much intact", adds Varadi. "[As the] pound has recovered, so has our growth rate," he notes.

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