Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond poured cold water on the idea that planes would be unable to fly from the U.K. to the European Union if there’s no deal on Brexit, a favorite theme of opponents of an abrupt departure from the bloc.

Britain’s air-traffic controllers currently work under agreements that are part of Britain’s EU membership. When lawmakers in Theresa May’s Conservative Party lawmakers urge the prime minister to walk away from negotiations immediately, the question of how airlines will continue to operate in those circumstances is thrown back at them.

Hammond, taking questions from Parliament’s Treasury Committee in London Wednesday, acknowledged that it’s “theoretically conceivable” that all planes would be grounded, but went on: “I don’t think anybody seriously believes that that is where we will get to.” Such a scenario, he pointed out, isn’t in the interests of the EU either.

The chancellor’s comments show how talk of a “no deal” Brexit can mean many different things: In the “no deal” scenario Hammond is preparing for, there would still be agreements on air-traffic control, and presumably other areas as well.

Hammond was using aviation to explain why he had written in Wednesday’s Times newspaper apparently ruling out spending money to prepare for “no deal.” He pushed back at that interpretation of his article, saying the point is that he isn’t going to allocate funds to departments to spend on preparations “until the very last moment, when we need to do so.”

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Tags: brexit, flights, uk
Photo Credit: An aircraft leaves London City airport. The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said leaving the European Union without a deal on aviation was in nobody's interest. Bloomberg