Theresa May needs to “get her finger out” over Brexit because it is going to be a “disaster for the UK economy”, Ryanair’s chief executive has told Sky News.
In a damning critique of the Government, Michael O’Leary said he did not have confidence in either Mrs May or her Brexit Secretary David Davis.
And he warned that flights to Europe could be hit if no trade deal was reached and the fall-back of World Trade Organisation rules was triggered.
“There’s no fall back in aviation,” he explained. “We’re not covered by WTO rules.
“There is going to be a cessation of flights from March 2019 if she doesn’t get her finger out and get a deal done in the next 12 months.”
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Mr O’Leary sounded a gloomy note on the progress of talks so far: “The negotiations are not going well. What do the British expect? The Europeans will not move. The onus is on the British Government to deliver a deal.”
He added: “If there’s no deal by March 2019 Britain gets thrown out of the European Union, you’re out of Open Skies and there will be no flights.
“And we’ve been asking Mrs May’s Government, what’s the plan? What’s Plan B, and we haven’t got any Plan B, we haven’t even got Plan A-and-a-half yet.”
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Mr O’Leary said the Government had only about a year left to indicate where the talks were heading – at least for his business.
“The problem for the aviation industry is we need to know six months before March 2019, so about this time next year – September/October 2018,” he said.
“If there isn’t the likelihood or the outcome of an agreement there will be skin and hair flying.
“People trying to book their holidays for summer 2019 here in the UK, this time next year, the options will be drive to Scotland or get a ferry to Ireland.”
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The Ryanair chief also suggested Mrs May had got her priorities wrong: “She’s just come back from the Swiss Alps – everybody’s entitled to their holidays, but there is a crisis coming down the road.
“Brexit is going to be a disaster for the UK economy, and she needs to be over there negotiating, not swanning around Japan drinking tea and sake.”
Mr O’Leary did, however, strike a note of optimism, saying his airline was planning on the basis that “somebody” in the Government would “sort out the Brexit”.
“We’re going to continue to invest in the UK and grow jobs here,” he said.