The head of Europe’s biggest airline has insisted “flights will stop if Britain does not reach agreement with the EU by March 2019”.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary repeated his previous warnings on flight disruption yesterday and said: “We’re increasingly likely to be proved correct. The legal position is flights will stop.”

However, O’Leary conceded: “I don’t really think there will be disruption in April 2019, only because the UK government will be panicked into an interim agreement.

“I’m being hysterical, but this is the legal position. There will be no flights from April 2019 if there is no agreement. [But] I see some fudged outcome.”

Speaking in London, O’Leary warned: “The British underestimate the extent to which voices in Europe are lobbying against UK flights.

“The French and Germans are saying ‘There should be a deal, but it should require strict observance of all existing EU rules and regulations’.

“Airlines and tour operators need this [agreement] by September or October 2018 or we’ll be left with no alternative but to cancel flights certainly from November 2018 so we can fill them somewhere else.

“There is a real prospect in summer 2019 there will be no flights – in which case we need to flip our aircraft. We will not suffer a catastrophic drop in traffic.”

He insisted: “Other airlines think the same as us, but they’re hoping some deal gets done.

“I think some deal will get done by Christmas next year because the [UK] government will panic. I suspect they will go for an interim deal. There isn’t time to put in place a new deal.

“The UK Department for Transport has no idea how to go about negotiating a bilateral [agreement] and doesn’t understand the extent to which other airlines are arguing against bilaterals.”

O’Leary argued: “There is increasing awareness in Brussels that aviation will be a way to stick it to Britain.

“They are going to [threaten to] ground you for a couple of months to put pressure on you.

“There is a briefing document from Lufthansa and Air France-KLM going around [Brussels] saying Britain should be given a deal but under the European Court of Justice and [with] no agreement to fly within the EU.

“Lufthansa and Air France [are] lobbying that UK airlines be treated as non-EU airlines. They are actively trying to shaft British airlines.”

Quoting from the document, he read: “UK carriers should be granted access to the EU market if there is full convergence.

“Cabotage rights [to operate intra-EU flights] should only be granted to EU carriers. UK citizens should be treated the same as non-EU citizens [for the purpose of ownership rules].”

O’Leary said: “You are not dealing with a level playing field. They want to screw you over.”

He dismissed “the whole British elite” as “delusional”, saying: “They want to leave the single market but continue to trade with the single market as if a member of the single market. It is fantasy stuff.”

More: 

Ryanair will bid to operate Alitalia

Air Berlin sale to Lufthansa ‘a stitch-up’