December 7, 2017 / 2:07 PM / 10 months ago

UK airport boss urges government to set out its Brexit vision

LONDON (Reuters) - The British government needs to set out its vision for Brexit, the head of two of the country’s biggest airports said on Thursday, reflecting exasperation building among the business community.

A Ryanair aircraft taxis behind an easyJet aircraft at Manchester Airport in Manchester, Britain June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Yates/File Photo

Discussions with the European Union have stalled this week, throwing the whole timetable into doubt, and finance minister Philip Hammond said on Wednesday that Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet had not yet discussed what it wanted from its final deal.

Executives within the airlines industry are increasingly alarmed because the aviation sector does not have a natural fallback arrangement that will keep flights in the air if Britain leaves the EU without a deal in March 2019.

“It’s important that the government move quickly, and it’s a bit worrying when you hear senior politicians saying there is no end state for Brexit agreed in cabinet,” Charlie Cornish, chief executive of the Manchester Airport Group (MAG), told Reuters.

“I do think that the government need to seriously up their act and get that end-state vision for the future relationship with Europe sorted.”

Chief executives rarely comment on politics in Britain but many have become increasingly concerned in recent weeks about slow progress towards a transition deal to help ease the path out of the EU.

Cornish, who at MAG also runs Stansted airport, said that while Brexit was his biggest concern, he believed that a compromise would be found. The industry has warned that it needs clarity soon because it sells flights so far ahead.

The government should also think about legislation around airport take-off and landing slots, he said, after a controversial court decision to allow administrators of failed airline Monarch to sell slots at Luton and Gatwick even though it did not intend to operate any more flights.

“It seems odd and unfair to customers and airports. There is a need for a fundamental review of how slots are managed when an airline goes into administration,” Cornish said.

Monarch’s slots at Manchester were returned to a “pool” to be reassigned by a regulator. MAG said that, Thomas Cook and TUI were already operating flights out of some of the slots, and that other slots for next year would be filled.

Editing by Stephen Addison

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