The start of negotiations between Hong Kong and the United Kingdom on an expanded air service agreement has been thrown into doubt following a ruling last month by the European Union's highest court that country-to-country agreements violated EU law. The talks were expected to be launched early in the new year, but industry sources said they could now be postponed indefinitely. British Airways (BA) chief executive Rod Eddington said most European countries were still reflecting on the ruling and its impact on future bilateral negotiations, with the start of the Hong Kong-British talks being subject to that process. 'We would favour a move towards a more liberal agreement with Hong Kong, but the focus now is on the EU's ruling. BA is going through the ruling in detail,' Mr Eddington said. A source close to the Hong Kong negotiating team said no date had been fixed for the start of talks with Britain. 'I'm not even sure if a date can be fixed, since the EU court ruling is such a difficult one to get a fix on,' said the source. 'Part of the uncertainty is how the British government approaches talks in the near term. 'There are no problems if the UK comes to the table reflecting the demands of its carriers, but will they come feeling duty bound to represent all of the EU?' One interpretation of the ruling says that whatever rights are gained by one EU member would be open to all European airlines. 'Hong Kong would have trouble accepting that, given that we have very restrictive access to many European countries, such as Spain and Italy,' he said. 'Eventually, we might end up having to negotiate future deals directly with the EU, that may be the best way forward,' he said. Negotiations on a new air-services pact between Hong Kong and EU member Austria are scheduled to start today. The outcome of these discussions might set the tone for future bilateral discussions with Britain and other EU members, the source said. The ruling, made by the European Court of Justice last month, said air-services pacts concluded between eight EU states and the United States were illegal. Lawyers for the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines said the ruling had set a legal precedent that undermined all bilateral deals made with EU countries, effectively invalidating the system of bilateral air-services agreements that manages international commercial aviation. Cathay Pacific had been expected to ask for increased code-sharing opportunities with its oneworld alliance partner BA, and for rights to offer services across the Pacific from London. Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic wants on-carriage rights in Hong Kong to allow it to offer services from London to Sydney.