Aviation Speaks Out As EU Referendum Day Approaches

The vote on the UK’s future membership of the European Union finally takes place tomorrow (June 23), with many commercial aviation airlines and OEMs having already spoken out against a Brexit scenario. Low-cost carriers have been particularly vocal in their opposition, raising concerns over Brexit’s impact on fares as one potentially damaging effect of the UK relinquishing its EU status. Among these airlines is easyJet, whose founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou discussed his concerns about a potential UK withdrawal on Tuesday (June 21). Speaking to the UK’s Daily Mail, Haji-Ioannou said: “It is certainly not my place to tell people how to vote, but it is very possible that -- in a post-Brexit Europe -- a more restrictive aviation environment would mean fewer flights from the UK to Europe and hence less competition between airlines.”

He also warned this would lead to higher air fares, with prices going back up to those last seen in the 1980s.

Ryanair, who analysts believe along with International Airlines Group would feel the effects of a Brexit less than easyJet, has also unanimously backed the UK remaining. Last month, its CEO Michael O’Leary told Bloomberg that the Ireland-based carrier was also firmly in the remain camp.

Naturally any impact on airlines would have an effect on the maintenance sector. Having spoken to some MROs with major EU airline customers, their immediate concerns of a Brexit are around potential currency fluctuations, which they feel could impact on pricing.

Long-term, concerns lie around the not so small matter of the UK’s R&D, science and engineering capabilities. The uncertainty appears is keeping some firms up at night, and with good reason.

These fears were further fueled in late 2015, when a report from consultancy firm CAVOK suggested Brexit would “economically harm” the UK’s science and engineering industries.

These concerns have also been raised by OEMs with vested interests in the UK such as Airbus. The aircraft manufacturer, which employees around 15,000 people in the UK and makes the majority of its aircraft wings in Broughton, Wales, wrote a letter to staff in April warning of the dangers of a withdrawal.

While not mirroring the threats of some automotive companies in withdrawing UK operations in the event of a Brexit, the letter stated difficulties could arise between its UK base and its French operation, where it manufactures the lion’s share of its aircraft fuselages.

With the result of the acrimonious vote to be determined by the end of this week, we’ll soon find out whether some of aviation’s biggest names will have to adjust the way they operate in the UK.


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