Abta members have the experience and expertise needed to help shape our future relationship, says the association’s chief executive Mark Tanzer

With just over a year to go until the UK leaves the European Union, there is a growing question on the minds of UK businesses – how can we prepare for life outside the EU?

Countries in the EU are some of the most popular destinations for UK holidaymakers – and it’s the EU laws, regulations and agreements which make it so easy for British people to travel to and around Europe, and beyond.

Abta is working hard to make sure matters such as aviation access and visa-free travel for holidaymakers and business travellers are top priorities for the UK and EU governments during the negotiations. The UK outbound travel industry contributes €37 billion to the economies of the 27 EU countries, and we know from our conversations with key destinations that they want to continue to enjoy the benefits that British tourists bring to their countries.

Yesterday’s news that the UK and EU have agreed the terms of a transition period, which is now subject to approval from the EU Council of Ministers at a meeting on Thursday, does offer businesses some degree of certainty in terms of what will happen next.

It tells us that the intention on both sides of the negotiating table is for the transition period to maintain the status quo between 29 March 2019 and the end of December 2020. But there are still some hurdles to overcome before this becomes a legal reality – particularly the issues around the Irish border.

What it should do for now is fire the starting gun for discussions on detailed negotiations about what the future relationship will look like. Issues around aviation and future border arrangements can finally be explored, and we’re urging all parties to make sure these are among the first matters to be discussed. There is a lot of work to do in a short space of time – the European Aviation Safety Agency came into force in 2011, eight years after negotiations started in 2003.

The UK government has stated that they are confident an agreement will be reached which means people would continue to travel freely after the UK leaves the EU, and it was encouraging to hear Theresa May reiterate, in her Brexit speech a few weeks ago, that she wants close alignment for the aviation industry.

We encourage the Government to be open and transparent with the travel industry going forward, so that we can work together to weigh up and work through the practical implications of the options on the table. Our members have the experience and expertise to help shape what the future arrangements look like, so it’s important the Government makes the most of this insight.

It’s these issues that Abta will be discussing today, with over 150 businesses leaders from across the travel industry, at an event in central London. We’ll be joined by experts from across the business, legal and political worlds to share their insight and knowledge into the Brexit process and possible outcomes, and we look forward to a constructive conversation.