Ryanair has forecast “big disruption” in the run up to Christmas 2018 from a failure by the UK government to clarify details of flying rights between Britain and the EU following Brexit.

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair chief executive, claimed yesterday: “The Europeans will engineer disruption.”

He said: “They’ve realised they can really yank the tail of everyone here by delaying on flying rights. There will be big disruption up to Christmas 2018.”

O’Leary had a well-publicised meeting with transport secretary Chris Grayling yesterday. Afterwards he said: “It’s becoming more and more likely there will be disruption to flights.

“The final outcome has become more uncertain.”

He said: “We had a good meeting. We emphasised the need to have an agreement by September 2018, [and that] you don’t have till March 2019 [the deadline for Britain’s exit from the EU].

“I can’t divulge what we discussed in the meeting. We stressed the need for an agreement to be in place by September 2018.”

O’Leary suggested: “The EU 27 [states] will be willing to allow an open-skies agreement, but it relies on the UK government agreeing to European oversight [by the European Court of Justice].

“If the UK holds to its current position and leaves the EU, open skies will be gone. The burden is on the British to negotiate an agreement.”

He said: “There is a lot of denial among other airlines. All I hear all the time is ‘I can’t believe there won’t be a deal’. I don’t share their optimism.

“It is far more likely the Europeans will engineer disruption for a time. There is a huge upside for France and Germany in disrupting our flights. I would be doing the same thing.

“Air France-KLM and Lufthansa have an interest in disrupting UK flights for six months from September 2018.”

O’Leary insisted: “The odds are against a deal being done in advance of Christmas 2018, [and] it’s in Europe’s interests to cause as much disruption as possible in the run up to Christmas 2018.

“They [the politicians] don’t really have any solutions. It’s highly unlikely there will be a transitional agreement.

“We need to know six months before [March 2019] or we’ll have to start cancelling flights.

“We’re a European airline. We can move our aircraft to Europe. We could, and we would. We have the flexibility. We have to make sure our aircraft are on sale somewhere they are able to fly.”