Government urged to urgently secure freedom to fly in Europe to ease growing uncertainty

The UK must reach an agreement securing freedoms for UK airlines to fly to Europe as a matter of urgency in the Brexit negotiations, Unite has warned.

The call from Unite, which represents over 65,000 workers in the airline industry, follows news that EasyJet is to open a new European headquarters in Austria to operate flights within the European Union after Brexit.

It comes amid warnings earlier this week that British Airways’ owner, International Airways Group, may be at risk of being broken up after Brexit if a deal isn’t struck on ownership requirements.

For an airline to operate routes within the EU, it must demonstrate that it is effectively owned and controlled by EU nationals, with at least 50 percent of its shares held by EU nationals. This poses a problem for UK airlines after Brexit, when their UK shareholders will no longer be classed as EU shareholders.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The UK airline industry is inextricably linked with its European counterparts and critically has the freedom to fly within Europe through the open skies agreement.

“A failure by the UK government to urgently secure an early agreement and deal with ownership requirements risks damaging our world leading airline industry and the tens of thousands of livelihoods which rely on it.

“Unless the UK government gets a grip, we could well see more UK based airlines being forced to set up headquarters in the European Union in a move which would ultimately hurt jobs.

“Government ministers need to secure the freedom for UK airlines to fly in Europe as a matter of urgency to ease job fears and stabilise confidence in our airline industry.”