Travel Convention 2016: Abta chief warns of threat to freedom of movement after Brexit vote

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer warned of a threat to freedom of movement and of “complacency in government” over Britain’s exit from the EU when he addressed The Travel Convention on Tuesday.

Speaking at the opening of the Convention in Abu Dhabi, Tanzer said:

“Economic interconnectedness continues to grow. But I want to warn against any complacency. Even before the Brexit referendum we were seeing barriers to migration rising. The IMF warned last week of a rising tide of protectionism.

“The prime minister returned to a very traditional philosophy at the Conservative Party conference last week, [saying] that if you feel a citizen of the world you are a citizen of nowhere. I disagree with her.

“We’ve seen rising animosity to immigrants. [But] travel needs open borders – for visitors and for workers. We will be arguing for a [Brexit] solution that meets the needs of the industry.

“Our priorities are open skies and free movement of people, and they are tied together. You can’t separate them and we’ll try to make the government realise that.”

He added: “Pre-Brexit we took the view the industry had more to lose than to gain by coming out of the EU. We said there would be pressure on the pound and that would make holidays more expensive and that is where we are.

“My concern is there is a lot of complacency in government.”

Former Press Association editor in Brussels Geoff Meade told the Convention: “There will be no quarter given [by EU negotiators] out of fear of driving fragmentation all over Europe.

“In Brussels they don’t see this as something they can play fair with. Britain can’t be given a ‘fair deal’. Euroscepticism is now so rife. [EU] institutions feel they have their backs to the wall.

Meade warned: “Don’t expect any solution any time soon that anyone understands.”

However, he added: “There are two major elections next year, in France and Germany, which could change everything.”

Sunvil managing director Chris Wright said: “My biggest concern is the exchange rate. We have a good a hedging policy and with the low oil price we’re not going to see the kind of increases in price we feared for next year, but I’m still concerned about the exchange rate.

“Even if we manage to keep prices down, customers will experience higher prices in resort. If the pound continues to drop it will be an issue.”

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