Ryanair boss claims Germany and France will use Brexit rules to impact British Airways

Ryanair passenger claims airline forced her to sleep in a storm

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Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, said that politicians in Germany and France are “gunning for” IAG. IAG is the FTSE100 airlines group that owns BA and other airlines.

Before Brexit, airlines operating within the EU had to demonstrate they were “owned and controlled” from member states.

These rules were suspended after Brexit and both sides agreed to talks to set up a new system.

UK shareholders are now no longer included in the EU ownership count. A quarter of IAG is owned by Qatar.

This means that the UK’s flagship airline could be in breach of EU rules when they are reintroduced.

However, IAG has said it is already compliant with the rules due to its Madrid-based board structure.

The airline company also operates Spanish carrier Iberia as well as Aer Lingus and Vueling.

O’Leary said that the reintroduction of the rules would give Air France and Lufthansa the chance to weaken IAG’s position.

He claimed: “IAG is the one that the French and Germans are really gunning for. There is clearly a bashing up going on there at the European Commission, with the French and Germans looking for the break-up of IAG.

“The Spanish are trying to hold it all together. But generally at European level, whatever the French and Germans want, they get.

“I think it is inevitable that BA will be forced out of IAG. IAG will become a Spanish/Irish group.”

Leading aviation analyst Andrew Lobbenberg disagreed with IAG’s claim that it was compliant with rules.

He said: “National interests are ever present in the airline industry, which is often the home of mercantilist policy making.

“The commercial interests of Air France-KLM and Lufthansa would unquestionably be supported by adding new strategic challenges to IAG.

“The company could consider demerging its non-EU business of BA into a separate non-EU owned company, leaving the legacy business EU owned.”

IAG said: “We comply with the EU ownership and control regulation. Our EU airlines’ remedial plans were approved by the national regulators in Spain and Ireland, and the IAG Board has a majority of independent EU non-executive directors.”

O’Leary also claimed that Wizz Air and easyJet would merge or be absorbed by a flag carrier.

He said: “I do not believe that Wizz and easyJet will survive as independent airlines. I think they will either merge together and become one bigger, larger Airbus operator across Europe – or Wizz will merge with somebody like Lufthansa, and easyJet will get taken out by BA or Air France.”

The reintroduction of the EU rules has likely been delayed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

O’Leary said last week that Ryanair would be the first airline to return to Ukraine when it was safe to do so.

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