Flights between the UK and the EU could be grounded when the Brexit transition period ends, transport secretary Grant Shapps has admitted.
The cabinet minister said it is “critical” that air links are not severed, stressing the “mutual importance of aviation and travel”.
Both sides agreed prior to the first scheduled Brexit date of March 29 last year that flights would continue for 12 months even if no trade deal was reached.
But Shapps revealed that the UK is still waiting to hear if the EU will consider a similar scheme for the end of the transition period on December 31 as Brexit talks continue.
Speaking at the annual convention of travel trade organisation Abta, Shapps said: “Negotiations, as you know, have been intensified in recent weeks and although time is now tight we remain hopeful that an agreement can be achieved.
“But in order for there to be agreement on transport issues, there will need to be an agreement on all of them, and important work remains to be done.
“Of course, it’s critical that flights between the UK and the EU can continue to operate as normal at the end of the transition period, regardless of the outcome of these negotiations.
“That’s why we expect the EU to bring forward contingency measures as done before to ensure flights will continue if negotiations are unsuccessful.
“Of course, we will look to reciprocate that.”
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said he was “concerned” by Shapps’ comments.
He said: “A year ago when we were coming up to potentially no deal, we had a sort of standstill agreement that for a year, whatever the outcome, aviation rights to be able to fly back and forth to Europe would be in place.
“What the Secretary of State was suggesting was we’re waiting for a proposal from Europe that that will be the case, and if it is we will reciprocate.”
If people are “not sure that the flights will fly” it will be “another deterrent” against booking, Tanzer said.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade body Airlines UK, said: “Both sides have always maintained that they want connectivity between the UK and EU to continue and we expect this to be the case because of the mutual importance of aviation and travel to both the UK and EU.
“In the event of a no-deal scenario there is precedent from the 2019 no-deal regulations that would have protected air travel in both directions.”