Brexit’s Ironic Twists Hit Spain’s Biggest Industry

Peak Tourism” has already set in. Brits account for 22% of tourists in Spain. Now add Brexit.

In a delectable irony, two of the biggest corporate victims of a disorderly Brexit could turn out to be Spain’s flagship carrier Iberia and low-cost airline Vueling. Both companies are majority owned by British Airways’ parent company International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), which is UK-based. And current EU rules require European carriers to be both majority-owned and operated in the bloc.

If the UK leaves the EU on March 29, IAG will no longer meet those requirements. If the current legislation is not changed or a new loophole inserted into it, Iberia and Vueling’s European fleet could find themselves grounded in 70 days’ time. As absurd as it may sound, even planes shuttling between Spain’s two biggest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, could be refused permission to take off.

In recent weeks, the two airlines, together with the Spanish government, have been trying to convince the European Commission that they are more Spanish than they are British, but seemingly to little avail. The major sticking point is the matter of ownership. Both Iberia and Vueling say that although they are both under majority British ownership, control is in the hands of one Spanish company. While IAG holds 49.9 percent of voting rights, Garanair, the remaining 50.1 percent voting stake is wholly owned by Spain’s struggling retail giant El Corte Ingles whose debt is currently junk-rated

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