With the government officially releasing its white paper on its Brexit strategy, the UK travel industry has welcomed the government’s acknowledgement of key concerns, such as airspace agreements.

While the major focus of the white paper is on leaving the single market at the Customs Union but still allowing free and fair trade, the plan also puts forward the idea of allowing UK citizens visa-free access to European markets and vice versa for tourism and business purposes.

The report also touches on aviation – a welcome site from the travel industry, which has expressed concerns over UK airlines’ ability to operate flights within the EU after the country leaves the union. The government says it is in everyone’s interest to ensure connectivity continues after Brexit and suggests exploring options for maintaining an open skies agreement to ensure there are no additional barriers for businesses.

Travel trade association UKinbound welcomed the white paper, with chairman Mark McVay commenting: “We have consistently argued that frictionless arrangements before, during and at arrival at the UK’s borders are vital to an industry which in 2017 brought in an estimated £25 billion to the UK economy and £10 billion from EU tourism alone.

“Whilst we are pleased that the government has listened to our concerns, there remains a lot of work to be done on this and other outstanding issues. We will continue to make the case that it is vital that our future relationship with the EU protects the tourism industry in the UK.”

Meanwhile, Mark Tanzer, CEO of ABTA, said: “The white paper provides some much-needed clarity on the government’s thinking on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

“It’s good to see the government recognise many of the main priorities ABTA has been highlighting for the industry and travelling public – such as maintaining open skies access, remaining part of the European Aviation Safety Agency, ensuring visa-free travel, and keeping the European Health Insurance Card system.

“We also welcome the intention to maintain high levels of consumer protection. However, further clarity is still needed on other important areas, such as the future of posted workers and the TOMS regime for VAT.

“It is also important to remember that this is a two-sided negotiation, and the EU will have their own ideas on what a future relationship should look like. ABTA will continue to engage proactively, and to call for a pragmatic approach to the negotiations from both sides – seeking a deal that prioritises the needs of the travelling public and the travel industry. We’d also encourage the government to continue to engage with business as they discuss the details of the proposals with the EU.”

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