Germany and France will use post-Brexit rules to force BA split, says Michael O’Leary

Ryanair’s chief executive has said that Germany and France will use post-Brexit rules to force British Airways to become an independent airline.

Michael O’Leary said politicians and lobbyists in the eurozone’s two largest economies were “targeting” IAG, the FTSE 100 airline group that owns BA.

After a hiatus of more than a year, Brussels authorities are now considering how the so-called ownership and control rules will be implemented.

Before Brexit, airlines operating within the EU had to prove they were “owned and controlled” by member states. The rules were suspended after Britain left the European bloc, with both sides agreeing to begin talks on a new post-Brexit regime.

Brexit means that UK shareholders are no longer included in the calculation of EU ownership. With Qatar-owned BA a quarter of parent company IAG, this means the British airline could be in violation of the rules when they are implemented back.

However, the rules are complex and subject to interpretation. The IAG insists it conforms to the board structure already based in Madrid.

Brussels authorities wrote to airlines before Christmas last year asking how they would comply with the rules.

O’Leary said the re-implementation of the rules, originally scheduled for later this month but possibly delayed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has called Air France and Lufthansa ‘IAG, the FTSE 100 company whose Airlines Iberia, will provide an opportunity to weaken the situation. Aer Lingus and Weiling are also included.

He added: “The IAG is what the French and Germans are really looking for. It is clear that a tussle is taking place within the European Commission, with the French and Germans demanding the dissolution of the IAG.

“The Spaniards try to keep it all together … but in general, at the European level, they get whatever the French and Germans want.

“I think it is inevitable that BA will be forced out of IAG. IAG will become a Spanish-Irish band”.

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