Ross may question airlines on post-Brexit ownership rules compliance

Minister for Transport ‘considering’ request from Brussels for explanation

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’ Leary has said he would remove voting rights from non-EU shareholders following Brexit if that is required to meet EU rules on ownership. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’ Leary has said he would remove voting rights from non-EU shareholders following Brexit if that is required to meet EU rules on ownership. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Minister for Transport and Tourism Shane Ross could question Irish airlines about how they intend to comply with European Union ownership rules after Brexit following a request from Brussels.

The trade bloc’s rules stipulate that EU investors must own more than 50 per cent of airlines licensed by member states or risk losing their flying rights.

EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc recently wrote to the 27 states that will remain in the bloc once the UK leaves asking them to explain “ as a matter of urgency” how airlines they license will comply with the rules.

A spokeswoman for Mr Ross confirmed yesterday that the Minister had received the commissioner’s letter. “He is considering it,” she said.

This means that Aer Lingus, Ryanair, CityJet and Stobart Air, which have Irish air operating certificates – airline licences – could face questions on their plans from Mr Ross and his officials.

Several Irish carriers have UK investors, which raises questions over their ability to comply with the rules in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit. They run the risk of being grounded if their non-EU ownership shifts above 50 per cent.

Voting rights

Publicly-quoted Ryanair said it would remove voting rights from non-EU shareholders, a move that would limit their control, if needs be. The carrier has also taken out a UK licence to protect British domestic flights.

Aer Lingus’s parent, the Willie Walsh-led International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), said it was confident it would comply with EU ownership and control rules following Brexit.

Stobart said that, based on current planning and deadlines, it would meet the EU ownership rules by March 29th, when the UK is due to leave. Its owners include the British-based Stobart logistics group.

Ms Bulc’s letter said not every national government had detailed their plans on how carriers would meet “ownership and control requirements” in all possible Brexit scenarios, including the EU leaving without a deal.

She asked Mr Ross and his counterparts to explain how airlines licensed by each country would meet the requirements on March 30th, the day after the UK leaves the EU, and whether national authorities thought these measures sufficient. – Additional reporting: The Financial Times