Brexit Could Cause Flight Chaos, Top EU Official Warns

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union’s top official warned that Brexit could prompt the grounding of flights from the U.K. to the bloc, providing a stark reminder of the economic stakes in stalled negotiations.

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, evoked the airline industry’s nightmare scenario in remarks that cited the difficulties of reaching an agreement on the U.K.’s planned withdrawal from the EU in March 2019.

“If everything goes wrong, then no more British planes can land on the continent,” he said in televised remarks at an event on Monday in Freiburg, Germany. “People don’t know that. One should have told them beforehand.”

The airline industry is pressing for an accord between the British government and the rest of the EU to prevent flight disruptions after the U.K. leaves the bloc, saying the failure so far to settle the matter is risky. The commission, the EU’s executive arm, is the Brexit negotiator for the U.K.’s 27 partners in the bloc.

He said he spends a lot of time on Brexit and, while expressing hope that a withdrawal deal can be reached, signaled the British government must change its attitude.

“We sometimes have the impression that the Britons think we are leaving Great Britain,” he said. “It’s exactly the opposite.”

Juncker said he regrets that no properly informed campaign took place in the U.K. regarding Brexit, which is going ahead as a result of a 2016 British referendum in which 52 percent of voters favored leaving the bloc.

It was in this context that Juncker cited, as an example of what should have been made clear to U.K. voters about the consequences of Brexit, the risk of grounded flights from Britain to the EU.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.