Chris Grayling admits talks on UK-EU post-Brexit flights have not begun

A flight of fancy

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has insisted that flights between the UK and EU will not be grounded after Brexit despite admitting that talks on route access have not begun.

The ardent Brexiteer told a gathering of UK airport bosses that the "process is not in our hands".

The single market for aviation, created in the 1990s, means there are no commercial restrictions for airlines flying within the EU.

The continuation of flights between the UK and the EU after Brexit will require either a fresh deal with the European Commission or bilateral agreements with individual countries.

The UK aviation industry and government has called for the liberal market to continue after Brexit.

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Speaking at the annual conference of trade body the Airport Operators Association in central London, Grayling said: "I have had plenty of talks with both the Commission and other transport ministers.

"We will start formal talks as soon as they are willing to start formal talks. As I sit here today, they haven't been.

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"But I haven't met one single person either in the Commission or a member state who believes there will be an interruption to aviation."

Grayling noted that Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, who has repeatedly claimed flights could be grounded, is "selling tickets for next summer and expanding the number of routes between the UK and the European Union".

He went on: "There is no way that flights will stop between the UK and the EU after March."

Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports, which owns Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports, told the event his Brexit preparations included getting ready for the "worst case scenario".

He warned that the lack of uncertainty "doesn't really help the planning process" which he described as expensive and time consuming.

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