Senior leaders from European aerospace groups Airbus and Leonardo on Monday expressed concern about working arrangements with British companies in the event that the Brexit transition period ends with no trade deal agreed between the European Union and the UK. One difficulty would likely center on the absence of a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA), which is supposed to form part of the Brexit settlement to allow for a relatively smooth regulatory landscape when the UK leaves the European Union Aviation Safety Agency at the end of the transition period on Dec. 31, 2020.
Industry groups have continued to express fears that the Brexit negotiations could soon collapse, as the two sides apparently remain far apart in their expectations for a complex trade deal. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated that he is willing to let the UK complete its departure from the EU without a deal, even if it means having to trade on standard World Trade Organization terms.
Speaking during the opening ceremony for the online FIA Connect event that started on July 20, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said that the France-based group very much wants to keep working with UK partners, but warned that a failure to agree to acceptable terms for future trading relations could cause serious complications. “We know there is an additional challenge from a hard Brexit and we don’t like it,” said Faury.
Adding that the French and German governments have been quick to provide high levels of support for the aerospace industry during the Covid crisis, Faury expressed hope that the UK government would follow suit. “We have been able to count on a doubling in the money available for research and development, and this represents a sustained effort for the future of aviation,” he commented. “We hope that the UK [aviation] ecosystem will be more innovative and competitive and we see that this is high on the agenda of the UK government.”
Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo told the FIA Connect audience that a complete and balanced Brexit settlement is imperative to Europe’s aerospace sector, in which he sees the UK continuing to play a leading role. “I am strongly in favor of an agreement even if it means postponement [of the Brexit transition period],” he said.
“We have 10,000 people in the UK, including a big base for our helicopter division, and my main worry is for the people,” Profumo added. He said he worries that tightening UK immigration rules will prevent a free flow of talent needed for companies across the continent to get the technical skills they need to support key programs.
However, Victoria Foy, CEO of Safran Seats GB said that the Covid-19 pandemic has so far proved far more disruptive than Brexit. “For us, the situation is really no different than it was pre-Brexit,” she commented. “We are part of [France-based] Safran and they have invested in the UK by buying our business and have invested more in the company over the past two years.”