EC Warns of 'Politically Sensitive' Post-Brexit Talks with UK

 - January 16, 2020, 10:09 AM

The European Union remains open to concluding a comprehensive air transport agreement with the UK post-Brexit to ensure connectivity, though an open-skies-style deal “cannot amount to [a] de-jure or de-facto participation [of UK airlines] in the single aviation market,” according to a communication released Wednesday evening by the European Commission’s Task Force for Relations with the UK. The bullet-point document outlines the main aviation elements the sides must consider during the upcoming negotiations to establish the future relationship between the remaining 27 EU member states and the UK.

The parties have 11 months to devise and sign the new regulatory regime, which would come into force by January 1, 2021. Negotiations will prove “complex and politically sensitive,” the note read, while stressing that the Commission will present its recommendations only after the UK’s exit from the EU—planned for January 31.

The taskforce’s paper, designed to help the EU27 understand the topics at play, recaps that under a “baseline scenario,” the UK’s participation in a fully liberalized EU aviation market ends; all current EU law-based rights, obligations, and benefits cease; and UK airlines enjoy no traffic rights to and within the EU27. EU airlines currently owned by UK nationals will no longer retain EU carrier status, a conundrum for European aviation groups that own airlines both in the UK and in the EU27 such as IAG or integrated intra-EU LCCs such as EasyJet and Ryanair.

Last year, Brussels adopted legislation protecting basic aviation connectivity between the UK and EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit—covering the interim period before the conclusion of a comprehensive air transport agreement—giving UK operators third and fourth freedom rights to/from the EU27 and granting them a temporary exemption from EU ownership and control requirements. The legislation contains no restriction on capacity or gauge and it allows code-sharing and limited wet-lease operations. The future deal will need to renegotiate those fundamentals, combining the need to uphold connectivity while ensuring “sector-specific level playing field provisions,” according to the document.

The baseline scenario for safety would denote the end of the UK’s participation in the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the end of mutual recognition of certificates and licenses as of January 1, 2021. Elements to be considered in drafting the new relationship include regulatory cooperation, but no participation in EASA and no mutual recognition, the document stated.