The bluster from Paris

Eleanor Steed
By Eleanor Steed September 14, 2018 16:44

The bluster from Paris

With hurricane Helene heading for the British isles and Florence baring down on the USA, another storm is  blowing up on the Continent – the bluster from Paris.

Ms Loiseau, a senior French minister has warned today that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, her government will block aircraft arriving from the UK along with Eurostar trains. The UK government responded by saying that “it acknowledged that planes would be grounded without a post-Brexit agreement”.

These are strange times we live in, wars have been started over less, indeed the proposals France mentions today are tantamount to a total blockade of the UK, and one supposes ferries and shipping would be included too which in turn would amount to a partial blockade of Ireland.

The French are seeking to ramp-up the rhetoric as Germany, Italy, Poland and others seem to be softening their stance towards a UK deal. The fact remains though that aviation remains one of the constant tools the EU member states are using as a bargaining chip, even though it was quickly overshadowed by the Northern Ireland hard border issue. But now closer to the “deal or no deal “endgame, aviation is coming back to the fore.

It is of course ironic that the French take the lead in this matter as after all; Ryanair, easyJet, IAG and other airlines will all agree with me when I state – What is new? The French air traffic control have been blockading UK air traffic on and off for decades.

In all seriousness though we are in dangerous times and aviation is and will always be a political tool. Should the EU be mad enough to blockade a country of some 65m on its doorstep and cripple its economy then it can expect very deep and lasting resentment from the UK population, which risks galvanize the UK electorate into pushing the government to punish the EU as and where it can, leading to far left or far right voting tendencies or a government of national unity. The EU will not want that. In turn Spain, Italy and France will see tourism rates drop off of a cliff, thus hitting their economies very hard indeed, French and German car manufacturers would lose access to the second largest car market in Europe. That is the real worry though notice the French were careful not to mention shipping – they want to keep shipping lanes open to sell goods to the UK but hit travellers and cause problems as and where they can. This is logical from a negotiating standpoint and indicates that the French have an element of thought behind their statement today and as such it should take it seriously.  But in all this turmoil, the UK-based airlines should have options that do not involve grounding aircraft. If airlines add the appropriate percentage onto ticket prices for additional fuel, they should be able to transit flights into the EU via other countries and in this scenario Norway could if needed become a gateway into the EU for UK flights if required, similarly Switzerland could be used to the same end.

So do not devalue those UK airline shares just yet – where there is a will there is a way.

Eleanor Steed
By Eleanor Steed September 14, 2018 16:44