Tom Brake, MP for Carshalton and Wallington, told the Commons on Tuesday (December 11) he had met with Abta to discuss the association’s concerns over Brexit and put them to chancellor Philip Hammond.
He said without clarity over the government’s proposed trajectory for Brexit, including what its position will be on immigration, Abta members could not make business plans to weather the Brexit period.
Addressing MPs, Brake said: “I met the travel association Abta this morning and it had two requests for the chancellor: first, that he rules out no deal, because implementing no deal preparations potentially puts its smaller members out of business; and secondly, to hear from the chancellor and [the] government when the immigration paper will be available, because without it ABTA members can make no business plans.”
Abta has already welcomed dozens of new members and partners this year. Its travel agency membership, according to director of financial protection and financial services John de Vial, stands between 3,500 and 4,000, with a similar homeworking contingent.
The association has, for the best part of three years now, campaigned forcefully for greater clarity on Brexit and lobbied the government for concessions that would soften the expected blow to the travel sector.
In response to Brake’s question, Hammond said he remained of the belief a no-deal Brexit would be damaging for the country, adding further details of the government’s proposed new immigration policy would be published shortly.
“I think I have been perfectly clear and consistent in expressing the view that no deal would be a very bad outcome for this country, and I will do everything I can to make sure that that is not an outcome we face,” said Hammond, adding: “A white paper on the government’s future migration policy will be published shortly.”
Abta recently issued a six-point list of practical advice agents can start implementing immediately ahead of Brexit, covering issues such as insurance and driving overseas.
A spokesperson for Abta said: "The meeting was part of Abta’s ongoing engagement with MPs around Brexit, and we continue to lobby officials in the UK and the EU about the travel industry priorities for Brexit.
"The chancellor’s reassurances around a no-deal are certainly welcome and we encourage the government to publish its immigration strategy as soon as possible in order to help businesses plan.
"Given that the Brexit process is still ongoing, it is important members continue to prepare for all eventualities.
"Abta’s advice for customers and guidance on contingency planning supports members to do this, and an updated version of contingency guidance will be available tomorrow [Thursday]."