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Bad-tempered Brexit could ground planes

Off message? Chancellor listens to PM

A ‘BAD-TEMPERED’ Brexit could lead to all flights between Britain and Europe being grounded, Philip Hammond admitted yesterday.

Should talks break down, with one or both sides refusing to co-operate, it is conceivable that air traffic will cease from day one, the chancellor said.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association trade union confirmed planes will not be able to legally land unless a new set of rules can be agreed.

A spokesman told Metro: ‘The entire UK aviation sector which employs nearly a million people and carries more than 250million passengers per annum would be devastated by a Brexit “no deal”. Unlike most other sectors there are no World Trade Organization or any other rules to fall back on for aviation.

‘UK airlines could find they have to stop flying — it’s that serious. And this would impact passengers long before March 2019 because airlines couldn’t sell advance tickets and, frankly, would passengers risk buying them?’

Mr Hammond said new flight rules could be agreed even if the two sides failed to reach a trade deal. But he told the Commons Treasury committee: ‘We have to consider the possibility of a bad-tempered breakdown in the talks where we have non-co-operation.’

There are no rules to fall back on because flights between EU nations and the rest of the world are governed by a mass of treaties drawn up between the countries concerned. Theresa May said yesterday government departments were getting an extra £250million this year to help them plan for Brexit, including a no-deal outcome.

‘Where money needs to be spent it will be spent,’ she told the Commons during prime minister’s questions. ‘In some cases departments will need to spend money before the relevant legislation has gone through.’

But addressing the Treasury committee minutes earlier, Mr Hammond appeared to contradict her when asked if money should be earmarked in next month’s Budget for hiring extra customs staff.

He told former Brexit minister David Jones: ‘Every pound we spend on contingent preparations for a hard customs border is a pound we can’t spend on the NHS, social care, education or deficit reduction.’

■ THE CBI has criticised Theresa May for saying the rights of EU nationals could ‘fall away’ under a no-deal Brexit. The business organisation’s director Carolyn Fairbairn told a London audience that if the capital loses even some of the 1million EU citizens working there, the nation’s ‘health and wealth’ will suffer. ‘The uncertainty facing them has become intolerable – it is a blight on the values of the nation,’ she added.