Almost six months after the UK voted to leave the EU, the terms under which it will do so are still extremely unclear. In an attempt to suss out how Brexit will affect UK-EU trade, members of Britain’s House of Lords have been quizzing key players in the UK’s services industry, whose largest export market is the EU.
And one question the Lords have been asking is: Are there any silver linings?
Some of the transport bodies that have given evidence to the Lords’ EU Internal Market Sub-Committee said Brexit might bring some benefits: for instance, some existing aviation taxes could be lowered or scrapped once Britain is no longer beholden to EU law, making domestic UK flights cheaper. But for three key companies in the travel industry, Eurostar, Skyscanner and Ryanair, the answer was unequivocal: “Nope.”
Among the questions the sub-committee asked was: “Does leaving the EU raise significant benefits or growth opportunities for your business/sector? What are these and how can they best be exploited? To what extent do they offset/outweigh concerns about reduced access to EU markets?” Here’s how those three companies responded.
There are no benefits or growth opportunity that we could identify from leaving the EU.
As a cross-border operator, our fixed costs are already very high, and in many instances the business case is marginal. Any additional cost, small as it might seem, would only add to these costs and risks either raising prices for passengers or, if the market cannot bear such increases, making the operation unsustainable in its present form.
Skyscanner projects that any benefits in leaving the EU will be minimal compared to the negative impact, and even then any benefits are contingent on the UK Government acting quickly and effectively, such as by negotiating trade deals and easing recruitment from hotspots such as the USA, India and other non-EU countries who lead in technology. Regrettably, this does not seem likely in the present political climate
No. In the case of Ryanair, Brexit will stimulate growth in other markets. Planned growth for the UK business in 2017/2018 had been of the order of 15%. In the face of the uncertainty created by Brexit and the ultimate dampening of demand due to lower UK economic growth, Ryanair will now divert the planned additional capacity to other countries and expects growth in the UK to be of the order of 5% in 2017. This is a direct loss to the UK economy. Ryanair will take delivery of 50 additional Boeing 737 aircraft in the coming year. It is unlikely that any of these will be based in the UK, given the current uncertainties.