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Brexit and aviation: UK airline access to EU markets to diminish, as airlines prepare for the worst

In spite of UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling's continued assertion that he will seek "the best possible access to European markets" for UK airlines, this access is increasingly likely to be less liberal than now. The European Commission has made it clear that the UK will leave the single aviation market when it leaves the EU, possibly after a limited transition period yet to be agreed.

Future UK-EU traffic rights are likely to be governed by a new bilateral similar to the EU-US and EU-Canada deals. The UK's participation in EU deals with third countries will also cease, but Mr Grayling is confident that the UK can replace them with new bilaterals (although these seem unlikely to give UK airlines the right, for example, to fly to the US from elsewhere in Europe).

Meanwhile, Ryanair has warned that the UK government is underestimating the likelihood of flight disruptions to/from the UK. It has followed Wizz Air in applying for a UK AOC as a contingency. EasyJet is setting up a new UK subsidiary alongside the European one established in 2017 in an effort to be both a UK and an EU operator.

Little more than 13 months before the UK's departure, clarity is needed urgently.

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