UK Brexit from the EU: What’s next for Aviation?

While the world is on a coronavirus watch, the UK has left the EU (Brexit). For the UK Brexit and its aviation-matters, this year will be especially tricky.

Brexit means the dawn of a new aviation era

As I write, I’m seeing the UK officially leaving the Union. By the time you start reading, it will be the first working day of a new era.

For aviation, which this journalist knows best, it means a mess of a UK Brexit aviation matter to be resolved, leaving little time available on the calendar.

Brexit has been a long time coming; now it’s time for work

It has been a relationship that defined the UK for almost five decades. While it took three years to get them to withdraw it left some questions on the table.

Let see what the UK needs to answer before saying “we have a new relationship with the EU.”

Sky News Bidding Farewell to the European Union on the Cliffs of Dover, England.
Courtesy Sky News/YouTube

What changed on January 31st at 11 pm GMT?

Honestly, nothing changed. It was chosen at 11 pm GMT since Brussels is within the Central European Time Zone. It means an hour ahead of the United Kingdom, translating to midnight in Brussels.

The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement

The Withdrawal Agreement was a process to enact a transition period between the United Kingdom and the European Union. For the remainder of the year, the UK will be treated as an EU member. The enforcement started on February 1, 2020, 00:00 Central European Time. That was January 31st at 23:00 Grenwich Mean Time (the U.K.)/ 6:00 pm Eastern Standard Time in the U.S.

UK Brexit and Aviation, an overview of the possible negotiations

Now the negotiation begins. In aviation which is our bread and butter, since the UK is an island, traffic is highly international.

During this transition, aviation would still be subject to EU influence.

EU law primarily affects UK aviation. This includes regulations, traffic rights, aviation safety, and commercial air services route access.

Let’s also remember that the EU plays a significant role in other matters related to aviation. These include consumer protection and infrastructures, such as airports and air navigation services.

What the UK and EU would like to see

The UK would like a comprehensive agreement and the EU prefers a “bare-bones” deal.

Upcoming Changes

uk brexit and aviation
British Airways is one of the many airlines affected by Brexit. Photo: British Airways.

We are only 11-months into negotiations. UK and EU citizens can still travel between the continent and the island. By December there must be something on the table and agreed upon.

Everything from EU Free Trade Agreements (FTA) to an OpenSkies Agreement must all be hammered out for UK and EU citizens and businesses to have a way forward and to create certainty.

Mutual Recognition between the UK Civil Aviation Authority and the European Aviation Safety Agency

If both want flexibility and recognition they must deal with the prospect of mutual recognition.

In achieving dual compliance and permits the UK government and its Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) would have to operate under EU rules.

That is unless Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his team get crafty on a new set of rules which are compatible with the EASA rules.

The Cliff-Edge is still there

If by the end of this year the EU and UK governments can’t reach a deal, the following will happen:

  • There would be still flights between the UK-EU as expressed under the third and fourth freedoms of air navigation. EU and UK flights are considered international flights.
  • In addition, the UK has proposed giving EU airlines fifth freedom cargo rights to non-EU countries. Fifth Freedom rights for passengers are considered stop-over revenue flights but it isn’t a problem as it is cargo.

If no agreement is reached the backup is the Chicago Convention. This established the International Civil Aviation Organization in 1944. An air service agreement is better than using the rules agreed upon 74 years ago.

The EU single market includes aviation

For the UK CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to keep the market the UK needs an OpenSkies approach as airlines like EasyJet, Ryanair, Norwegian and Wizz Air have enjoyed thus far. If not, access to the continent will become tricky.

A skeletal agreement gives flexibility to ownership control. Be mindful not all control per se but some. It gives time for a comprehensive OpenSkies down the road. Which can be satisfactory for both the UK & EU.

US-UK OpenSkies already hammered

One of the things Former Prime Minister Theresa May did was hammering an OpenSkies Agreement with the US.

However, because of the constraints of not having a Withdrawal Agreement at the time, the OpenSkies couldn’t be signed.

Now the UK is “out of the EU.” My political sense tells me that Prime Minister’s Boris Johnson first call would be to the U.S. President Donald Trump.

open skies agreement
An OpenSkies Agreement will be crucial during the Brexit negotiations. Unsplash.

Once the US-UK OpenSkies Agreement is done along with the UK-EU agreement the UK Air Services Agreement (OpenSkies) with other countries could go forward.

This is just a sample of the massiveness of the problem.

A “bare-bones” framework is the way to a comprehensive agreement

Author’s Opinion

It is too important for an island as the UK and a continent like the EU to be in gridlock. There are some contentious points like Northern Ireland. However, it is my belief that aviation is a topic all parties can agree to and move forward.

Featured Image: Photo: British Airways.

What do you think about the UK Brexit and how it will affect aviation? You can leave your comments for the author Alex Martinez Rivera here.

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