Brexit can only take off on world trade terms

If you believed the headlines in the last six months, you would be forgiven for thinking that you would be unable to book a city break in Europe or visit loved ones abroad after the UK leaves the European Union. Apparently, planes will not be allowed to fly or – even worse – land on 30th March if we leave without a Withdrawal Agreement.

We are told this is because we are led to believe the UK does not have the right deals in place, because pilot licences will no longer be valid, British aviation companies will have relocated to Paris and we can’t import enough Mars bars to feed the crew on long-haul flights.

As Chief Executive Officer of a global aviation technology company, I can reassure you that this is not the reality. The UK’s world class aviation industry is not going to sit on its hands after Brexit, let down millions of our customers or allow businesses to go bust.

Many of my colleagues and clients have made the same point. Willie Walsh and Johan Lundgren, the chief executives of British Airways and EasyJet respectively, have both dismissed the prospect of there being no flights between the UK and Europe. Meanwhile the Civil Aviation Authority has branded a Sky News report which suggested as many as 35,000 pilots would need to renew their licences as ‘misleading’, reminding us that the UK is a signatory to the International Civil Aviation Organisation Chicago Convention.

And yet, these stories portray Britain as afraid to stand on its own two feet, begging our European counterparts to allow our planes to land and to renew our licences.

Contrary to these myths, such headlines actually reflect the defeatism that underpins the draft Withdrawal Agreement, certainly not the optimism and resilience of our country and industry.

Since forming Vistair almost two decades ago, we have striven to become a global, innovative business that meets the challenges and opportunities offered by the UK and the world.

I believe that by disengaging ourselves from the restraints and bureaucracy of the EU, these opportunities will multiply. For that to happen, we need a real Brexit: one in which we can strike Free Trade Agreements with the biggest and fastest-growing countries (hint: they are not in Europe), we can compete in our rightful place in the global economy and we can channel the innovation that is shown every year at the Farnborough Air Show.

Rather than letting ourselves be backed into a corner, afraid of the opportunities that a global trading platform like the World Trade Organisation presents, the UK needs to once again become the independent, entrepreneurial trading nation that 17.4 million people voted to see.

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