Ireland-based Ryanair has applied for a U.K. air operator's permit. The subsidiary Ryanair U.K. would hold the permit.

"This may be required for Ryanair's three U.K. domestic routes in the event of a hard Brexit in March 2019," the carrier said in an email to Travel Weekly.

Under current agreements, airlines from all 28 members of the EU can fly freely in and out of the U.K. and within the EU's continental member states. But the U.K. and EU must negotiate a new air service agreement as part of the Brexit process and it remains to be seen whether the existing level of openness will remain in place. Under a so-called "hard Brexit," substantial new limits would be imposed on the operations of EU-based carriers in the U.K. and vice versa.

Ryanair's move follows similar tactics by other European carriers. In July, British carrier EasyJet opened an Austrian subsidiary in order to ensure that it will be able to continue to fly within continental Europe no matter what happens in Brexit negotiations. Hungary-based Wizz Air applied for a U.K. operating permit in October.

Ryanair's three intra-U.K. routes are London Stansted-Glasgow, Stansted-Edinburgh and Stansted-Belfast.

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