Travel industry bosses demand progress and a fresh Brexit referendum

Exclusive: ‘I can‘t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to have a say on the final deal,’ said Travel Nation founder, Haydn Wrath

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Tuesday 21 August 2018 19:03 BST
Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive ABTA 'with a hard Brexit or a no-deal exit looking more likely, then I think ABTA’s members will start to make plans for a different world after next March'

As the government prepares to tell the nation its plans for a no-deal Brexit, concern is growing among airlines and travel industry leaders over the lack of progress towards agreements on key issues.

Two leading foreign airlines with their main bases of operations in the UK have issued warnings to investors about the possible effects of Brexit.

Ryanair is warning investors that planes could be grounded from the day Britain leaves in the event of no agreement to replace the current “open skies” arrangement: “There remains a distinct possibility that there may be no flights, for an unknown period of time, between the UK and the EU from the end of March 2019.”

The Irish budget airline, which is the biggest in Europe, says that if its UK-based aircraft cannot fly, it may “temporarily relocate [them] to alternative European bases”.

About 22 per cent of Ryanair’s fleet of Boeing 737s are currently based in Britain, with Stansted being the airline’s biggest hub.

Norwegian is also telling investors: “Brexit might impair the Norwegian group’s ability to grow as anticipated from its UK base, and might have a material adverse effect on the company’s business, financial condition, results of operations and future prospects.”

In an exclusive interview Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, the travel association, told The Independent: “Clearly as the clock ticks down towards next March and there still isn’t a deal, people are starting to get perhaps more nervous.

“We don’t see there’s been huge progress around the key issues that we raised in terms of aviation access and the ability to post key workers to support tourists and their business.

“We’re still waiting for confirmation that we will be able to keep those in a new era.

“We understand the political reality, and that this is a difficult negotiation. But we are very keen that we can get confirmation of those issues from the government at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Haydn Wrath, founder and managing director of round-the-world specialist, Travel Nation, said recruitment is getting difficult. “Over the last few years between 10-15 per cent of our employees have been from EU countries. Their excellent educations cost the UK nothing and they pay tax here.

“The uncertainty about their status in the UK post-Brexit makes some potential employees wary about making big personal commitments like moving to a new country, making the skill shortage more acute.”

With the travel industry exposed to serious harm if no deal or a poor agreement is struck, calls are growing in the travel industry for a second referendum.

Mr Wrath said: “It was a blunder not to structure this in in the event of a leave vote at the outset.

“There are clearly so many possible versions of Brexit. After two-plus years of us all talking and thinking about it, I can‘t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to have a say on the final deal.”

Last month Chris Grayling, the transport secretary and a leading Brexiteer, insisted that aviation would be unaffected even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking to The Independent at the Farnborough Airshow, Mr Grayling said: “Come what may, we will have a sensible agreement on aviation, because that’s what we want and that’s what they want.”

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