Brexit follow-up Part 3: Gulf airlines, Turkish lose UK ally in M/E talks as protectionism spreads

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The Brexit referendum produced a vote for the United Kingdom to leave the EU, although this process has not yet been formally invoked. In the scope of aviation, one outcome is the potential loss of the UK in shaping air service agreement negotiations. The UK has been a liberalising voice, one that often counterbalanced more protectionist views from France and Germany. The UK is often able to galvanise the smaller EU states too.

The EU now has mandates to negotiate open skies with states, including the UAE, Qatar, Turkey and the ASEAN bloc. The UAE and Qatar, home to the three Gulf network airlines, are expected to produce the most contentious negotiations. France and Germany will surely takes cues from Air France and Lufthansa to impede Gulf growth. In this light there are questions about whether the talks are genuinely motivated, or merely designed to draw out the discussion and thereby not produce any additional traffic rights while under negotiation.

What Air France and Lufthansa need is a real, lasting solution, rather than persevering Canute-like with stonewalling. Although a partnership seems logical, they may have waited too long. The Gulf airlines have found that they can succeed on their own.

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