Transport secretary Chris Grayling has sought to reassure operators that flights between the UK and European Union will be maintained after Brexit.

He wrote to the Association of Independent Tour Operators refuting a Sunday Times article suggesting otherwise before Christmas as being “categorically untrue”.

The newspaper suggested in a front page report on December 16 that government contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit would include advice “not to book holidays after March”.

Analyst GfK confirmed pre-Christmas bookings fell following the report.

However, Grayling said in a letter to Aito chairman Derek Moore: “As you will already be aware, both the UK and EU have made clear their desire to ensure flights between the UK and EU continue in any scenario.

“Both the UK and EU have a determination to retain the aviation links which bring such significant and cultural benefits for both sides.

“Indeed the UK made this clear in its technical notice on air services for flights to and from the UK published on 24 September. The EU set out its intention to ensure tis outcome in the Commission communication on 13 November, and published the detail of its proposed regulations on 19 December.

“The combined reassurances from both sides should ensure that businesses and passengers can continue to book and travel with confidence.”

Grayling added: “This department fully recognises the importance of giving passengers and business confidence to book their holidays and business trips to and from the EU after Brexit.

“We are exploring what additional communications will be needed to provide further reassurance.”

Aito has written to the editor of the Sunday Times seeking a response.