LONDON (Reuters) - Poles will want to stay in Britain after it leaves the European Union, the chief executive of Polish state airline LOT said on Tuesday, adding that Brexit would not have much impact on the airline sector if current policies were maintained.
The number of EU workers in Britain dropped in late 2016 following Britain’s vote to leave the EU, and a “leave” campaign that centred on restricting immigration.
Around about a million Poles live in Britain, over 10 times the number that were in the UK when Poland joined the EU in 2004.
Although Britain is now leaving the EU, LOT Polish Airlines CEO Rafal Milczarski said that he did not believe Polish people would want to leave Britain, adding that demand for flights would remain strong.
“Britain is an attractive place for many Polish people ... I doubt that many Polish people will be leaving Britain, unless there is some UK government policy that will impose such a solution,” Milczarski said at a news conference in London.
Britain will begin negotiations to leave the EU in June, and Milczarski said that he wanted to preserve the deregulated aviation market, known as Open Skies, which has increased competition and lowered consumer prices.
He said that if a Brexit deal maintained that policy, then “not a lot will change.”
EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall earlier said she was confident that flying rights would be secured in a post-Brexit world.
Milczarski said a situation where there was no aviation agreement was difficult to imagine but would have “horrible” consequences if it did happen.
He was speaking at the launch of new Boeing 737-800 NG planes on its Warsaw-London route, which feature 20 more seats than the Boeing 737 Classics.
Milczarski said that the airline might increase its capacity to London again, given the strong demand from Polish people to travel to Britain. He also hoped that Poles living in the UK would be protected in the negotiations and said they contributed to Britain.
“I don’t think they are a burden. The vast majority of them are actually a great enhancement for British society and for the British economy,” he said.
“To get rid of such a wealth of human capital - that is educated somewhere else, came to Britain and is benefiting Britain pretty much for free - I would say would be a great folly.”
additional reporting by Victoria Bryan in Berlin,; editing by Michael Holden, Louise Heavens and Pritha Sarkar