Transport secretary Chris Grayling has announced that the UK and US have agreed a new ‘open skies’ arrangement to allow flights to continue between the two countries after Brexit.

The deal will replace the existing EU-US agreement in preparation for Britain leaving the European Union.

The government says it will guarantee the continuation of transatlantic routes and claims it protects the £50 billion trading relationship between the two countries.

Perhaps more importantly for British airports, it means the UK will maintain its status as a key European hub.

Grayling said: “The UK and the United States have a special relationship which has helped shape the modern world and there is no better example of this than aviation. Our transatlantic flights have helped to bring our countries even closer together, strengthening our ties and boosting our economies.

“This new arrangement and those concluded with eight other countries around the world are proof that the UK will continue to be a major player on the world stage after we leave the EU.”

Commenting on the news, International Airlines Group (IAG) CEO Willie Walsh said: “It’s critical that Britain maintains full access to international aviation markets so it can continue to develop its global trading links. This agreement is a significantly positive development which we welcome.

“The agreement, which closely follows the Model US Open Skies Agreement, facilitates strong competition and is clearly pro-consumer. The US is a major destination for British businesses and tourists, while the UK welcomes many American visitors to its shores.”

Craig Kreeger, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, added: “We are thrilled that UK and US governments have reached an agreement, which will enable our customers to continue travelling as normal between the UK and US post-Brexit. We would like to thank the Department for Transport, Department of Transportation and Department of State for their diligence and hard work in finalising this agreement far in advance of the March 2019 deadline, which will provide much needed reassurance for both business and leisure travellers. We will continue to work with governments and stakeholders across our network to ensure our customers can continue to travel seamlessly.”

Tim Hawkins, chief strategy officer of Manchester Airports Group, commented: “The government’s new aviation deal with the US government is hugely positive for passengers and businesses flying on US routes from our airports – because it gives clear reassurance on flights post-Brexit and provides an ‘open-skies’ agreement that will encourage competition and choice in the long term.”

The UK government is also in advanced negotiations with Canada to form a similar agreement, while it has already made deals with Albania, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Kosovo, Montenegro, Morocco and Switzerland.

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