Saturday, 28 Nov 2020

Brexit punishment: Desperate EU plot to ‘cut off air travel to UK’ over Boris’ defiance

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Donald Trump’s Northern Ireland envoy has claimed that the EU could devastate Britain’s aviation industry if Boris Johnson refuses to back down on Brexit. Mick Mulvaney said that Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney told him in a private meeting that the EU could make life “very difficult” for the UK. Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin was pressed on these claims by Sky News host Adam Boulton.

Mr Boulton said: “One of Donald Trump’s envoys has told journalists that the EU would be prepared to use cutting off air travel as leverage against the UK to try and reach an agreement over the current negotiations. Is that true?”

Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin denied ever hearing about the possibility of the European Union imposing restrictions on air travel to the UK.

He responded: “I haven’t heard that being discussed at EU council meetings, not even on the fringes of those meetings.

“I have attended some key EU Brexit meetings now and my discussions with Michel Barnier, Europe is very focused on the intensive negotiations that have been underway for quite a few weeks.”

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Earlier this week, Mr Mulvaney revealed that he left a meeting with Mr Coveney in September with the understanding that the EU could make life “very difficult” for UK airlines seeking to access the continent.

Mr Mulvaney made the extraordinary claim at an Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) webinar.

He said that this EU threat could be imposed if Boris Johnson refuses to back down on his Brexit demands.

Mr Mulvaney explained he raised concerns with Mr Coveney that the EU could insist on controls involving the whole island or put “tremendous pressure on the Irish to do something” if Britain and Ireland refused to impose a border in a no-deal Brexit.

He said Mr Coveney told him that “there’s much larger more powerful, levers the Europeans could pull under those circumstances than a border across the island of Ireland”.

He added: “The example he gave was commercial aviation. Which gets to the British in some place which is a little bit closer to home perhaps in a larger economic impact.

“What I took away from the meeting was that British Airways continues to want to fly from London to the continent, and if the Europeans got really, really upset, they could make BA’s life very difficult.”

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Mr Coveney himself was forced to respond to the claims, insisting that comments he made about aviation in his meeting with Mr Mulvaney were “not a threat”.

A spokesman for the Irish foreign minister said the pair had a “wide-ranging discussion which included EU and UK interdependence beyond and despite Brexit – it was in that context that aviation was discussed and not as a threat”.

This comes as Boris Johnson and EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen plan to hold talks later today before a potentially decisive week in the Brexit negotiations.

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, will return to London for the trade and security negotiations on Sunday.

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