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Ryanair boss threatens to cancel flights if govt fails to produce post-Brexit aviation deal

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary says flights between Britain and Europe could stop unless a deal is reached by the end of 2018 (EFE/WILL OLIVER)

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has warned that disruption to flights between the UK and Europe is becoming increasingly likely as Brexit talks proceed.

At a briefing in London, O’Leary expressed his frustration at the government for failing to plan for the possibility of no deal on aviation being reached with the European Union.

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“There is no fall back. The UK government doesn’t have a plan B,” O’Leary said after a briefing with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, who he said was increasingly conscious of the need to conclude an aviation deal before the end of next year.

“We’re going to need to know by September or October 2018 otherwise we’re going to start cancelling flights or taking flights off sale,” he warned.

Airlines would need a deal to be reached by the end of 2018 to be able to provide scheduled flights in March 2019, he explained.

O’Leary’s warning comes as the government faces pressure to urge EU states to better staff their airports, as new security measures left British travellers facing huge delays.

While British and EU negotiators struggle to reach agreement on more high profile issues such as the UK’s settlement bill and the fate of EU citizens in the UK, aviation remains very much down the pecking order.

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The Ryanair chief exec has been warning for months that unless a new bilateral deal is reached by the end of 2018 it could lead to a total freeze on flights between Britain and Europe. In his Wednesday press conference he didn’t seem optimistic.

“It’s odds against a deal being done in advance of Christmas 2018, because it is in the Europeans’ interest to not have a deal done,” said O’Leary.

“All hell will be kicking off over here in the UK.”

The government insists it is “committed to getting the best deal possible” for UK aviation after Brexit, but little progress seems to have been made on the issue.