Belfast International Airport says the ruling by the European Commission to block the funding package to protect Northern Ireland’s one and only scheduled trans-Atlantic service defies logic and is an example of ‘abysmal Brussels decision-making.’
The airport’s Managing Director, Graham Keddie, in a statement, said: “You could hardly get a worse example of process-driven madness. To block a support package for an airline that delivers direct access to the United States is almost beyond comprehension.
“This is a vital link for business and losing it will be a body blow to Executive Ministers who use it to promote Northern Ireland to would-be investors from the United States.
“The adverse impact is all the greater, coming as it does ahead of the crucial decision to make Northern Ireland more competitive with reduced Corporation Tax designed to stimulate inward investment.
“This is a bad day for the Executive and a bad day for Northern Ireland, which is still finding its feet after a generation lost to conflict. The United service was well supported and only recently carried its one millionth passenger.
“We have worked tirelessly to safeguard the service, but Brussels took a different view, believing the support package gave United an unfair advantage over services from elsewhere.
“That, on its own, is bizarre as the package in no way competes or conflicts with competitors within the United Kingdom. The EU decision-making process is abysmal, biased and unfair and has resulted in the loss of this service.
“I would like to establish the level of representation made by any rival airline and competing airports before rushing to judgement. However, if there was interference, then our Government ought to make strenuous protest.
“Several key political figures worked with us to avert this disastrous decision. I would like to thank local MPs, Danny Kinahan and Ian Paisley, the Economy Minister, Simon Hamilton MLA, the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire MP, and the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling. Their efforts went above and beyond, but in the end the faceless eurocrats, and others ill-disposed to Northern Ireland, won the day.”