Konrad Mizzi is confident common sense will prevail in talks between the EU and Britain not to leave the aviation industry in limbo after Brexit.
The Tourism Minister yesterday weighed in on concerns raised by Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary that a deal looked very unlikely before Christmas 2018.
Dr Mizzi said this was not a problem linked only to Malta but had far reaching consequences across the EU.
“What is needed is an aviation agreement between the EU and Britain to replace the existing arrangements and our focus is to ensure this deal is reached,” he said.
With Britain slated to leave the EU by March 2019, the timing of such an agreement is crucial for the aviation sector to be able to plan ahead.
Malta International Airport CEO Alan Borg has called for the matter to be dealt with by the government Brexit task force, given that the United Kingdom market accounts for almost 27 per cent of passenger traffic to Malta.
MIA’s half-yearly results released last week also confirmed Ryanair’s top spot for carrying passengers in and out of Malta.
However, Dr Mizzi was confident leaders would seek an arrangement to avoid disruptions for passengers.
“I do not believe this will be a switch-on switch-off thing because it is hugely impractical to ground flights across Europe and I am sure common sense will prevail in the end and an agreement reached,” he said.
Mr O’Leary, a critic of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, has warned that no agreement could cause major flight disruptions between Britain and Europe.
Budget airlines like Ryanair, which flourished after Europe’s skies were liberalised in the 1990s, are likely to suffer the hardest hit in the absence of a deal that ensures planes departing from Britain continue to enjoy the same access rights to European airports.
Mr O’Leary has said that without a deal, Ryanair would move dozens of planes currently stationed in Britain to bases in other EU countries to continue flying.
The sticking point is likely to concern the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, which British Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted is a red line.
Formal Brexit talks started in June and negotiators have been slow to hammer out a deal on citizens’ rights, which are first on the agenda before sectoral issues like aviation.