EU Aerospace Set To Benefit from Post-Brexit Deal with UK

 - January 13, 2021, 1:41 PM

“Asymmetries” in the acceptance or validation of each other’s design certificates for aircraft or parts contained in the post-Brexit agreement will put European Union aeronautical companies on a stronger competitive footing than their UK counterparts, according to a European Commission official. EU and UK negotiators agreed to the terms of a detailed post-Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), which came into force provisionally on January 1 ahead of formal approval from the European Parliament.

Speaking to the parliament’s transport committee on January 11, Joachim Luecking, head of aviation safety at the commission’s directorate-general for transport, said that the TCA’s so-called aviation safety chapter is “very good news for the competitiveness of the European aeronautical industry as compared with the UK one in view of the asymmetries contained in the agreement on the acceptance of design certificates.” That means, he explained, that while the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) “will scrutinize all design-related certificates from the UK, the other way around the UK will accept the large majority of EASA certificates with very limited oversight.

“So, this puts the EU industry in a good position when entering the UK market and also reflects the fact that EASA is a widely respected leader in aviation safety while the UK still needs to develop its capabilities in this respect,” added Luecking.

Until Dec. 31, 2020, EASA certified all aerospace parts made within the EU and its former member country, the UK, and maintained mutual-recognition agreements with regulators around the world. The UK now has exited EASA and its civil aviation authority has taken on EASA responsibilities, such as certification of aircraft design and production, in the country.

The TCA’s safety annex is not a fully-fledged bilateral air safety agreement between the EU and the UK and focuses on three main issues: the acceptance or validation of each other's design certificates for aircraft or parts; the acceptance or validation of each other's manufacturing certificates and processes; and how to carry over the validity of existing approvals for aircraft and parts. The annex applies to new civil aircraft and components as well as used aircraft.

The EU and the UK agreed to recognize each other’s production organization approvals but only in areas subject to that system on December 31. The limitation, noted Luecking, carries “limited importance” to the EU aerospace industry but it does affect the UK, which does not produce any large aircraft and engages mainly in subcontracting activities. Conversely, “the EU already has production activities in basically all existing categories of products,” he said.

Similar provisions apply to aeronautical products produced before the end of the transition period and that hold a design or production certificate issued before the end of 2020 in the EASA system. “They retain the validity of their certificates and can continue to be used in aircraft registered in the EU,” confirmed Luecking.