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21 Mar 2018

BY Sophie Griffiths

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Brexit: 'What could possibly go wrong?'

“We want to go to Europe on holiday, and Europe wants to welcome us,” Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer wryly pointed out this week. “What could possibly go wrong?”

Sophie Griffiths Leader image

If the pervasive uncertainty at this week’s Abta Brexit briefing is anything to go by, it seems the answer is “rather a lot”.


The ambiguity surrounding the UK’s departure from the EU is nothing new, but with only a year left until we officially leave the European Union the frustration is mounting, especially for the travel industry – a sector dependent on being able to plan ahead.


This irritation was evident from one audience member at the Abta briefing. She repeatedly questioned guest speaker Vicky Ford MP, chair of the Conservative Backbench Committee, as to whether she could guarantee an aviation deal would be reached. Ford, of course, was unable to commit yet she gave many assurances the aviation issue was being taken seriously.


But for all Ford’s bluster, an aviation deal – or lack of one – remains a concern. Ryanair has plans for a “Brexit clause” and has admitted doubts of a regulatory solution. And last week consumer rights magazine Which? called on operators to highlight the implications for customers if no air deal was reached, given that next summer’s programmes are already on sale.


And yet, despite the uncertainty, the message from the Abta briefing was that there are still reasons to be cheerful. “The 53 million trips we provide into Europe means there is a deal to be done,” Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd’s Stuart Leven insisted.


“We’re as important to them as they are to us.”


What we need now, as Tanzer said, is “candour and transparency” – from politicians on both sides of the Channel. More honesty and less bluster will perhaps ensure the industry’s optimism can be realised.

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