Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary stepped up his warnings over Brexit saying the outcome of the talks would lead to an “inevitable” hard landing and bring major disruption to flights into and out of the UK.
He said Ryanair will have to make plans to move all its planes out of the UK as early as the end of 2018, if the UK fails to stay in the current Open Skies agreement.
The disruption to British flights will be severe from March 2019 because unlike other industries, aviation is not governed by World Trade Organisation rules and that the EU will insist that the UK sticks to some form of Open Skies agreement, he said.
That agreement is anchored by rulings from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the principle of free movement in the EU.
“Brexit remains a big cloud. It is very difficult to see where it finishes up,” he told reporters. He said the UK has announced it won’t recognise rulings of the ECJ, a decision which means that it will exclude itself from the Open Skies regime, and the EU will insist the UK adhere to ECJ rulings. There is “a real likelihood” that from March 2019 that no EU airlines will be able to fly to and from the UK.
“We are preparing for the worst and not putting any more aircraft into the UK in 2017 or 2018,” he said.
Mr O’Leary said that the disruption to British holidaymakers in summer 2019 may mean British voters start to understand that Brexit is a “dumb idea”.
Talking about controlling borders was easy but when it is “about having to go on your holidays in Scotland, rather than Spain or Italy or Greece, it may soften their cough somewhat”.
He said British voters were “deluding themselves” the Brexit talks would go well because the UK had nothing to negotiate with.
Though it wielded little influence, he said he would like the Irish government to persuade the UK to stay in the Open Skies agreement but the Government should remain “full square” with the EU in the Brexit talks.
Likening UK politics with the “phoney war” of 1939, he said UK prime minister Theresa May was wrong in saying that having no Brexit deal was better than striking a bad Brexit deal.
He said Ryanair had posted record bookings “on all Irish operations” this summer.
He said that its connections project at Rome Fiumicino may be extended ” at Dublin and “certainly at Stansted” in the next year once “we iron out the wrinkles”.
Ryanair started selling on its website long-haul transatlantic flights to the Americas, including to Boston, New York and Havana, from Spain on behalf of Air Europa this week.
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