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A British Airways A318 at London City Airport (Photo: British Airways)

Brexit Draft Document Continues Uncertainty for Future of U.K-E.U. Aviation

The next phase in the ongoing Brexit situation took place this week with the release of the draft withdrawal agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom. The 585-page document outlines the process of how the U.K.’s membership will cease and what possible agreements need to be in place pending its exit. As such the document did little to remove uncertainty for the aviation industry, and many other sectors, as agreements on a post-Brexit relationship have yet to be negotiated and finalized.

The draft document sets out a transition period from March 29, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2020, by which the U.K. will continue to abide by current agreements but will play no part in the European Parliament. The document allows for a further extension to this transition period but this can only be negotiated once and the U.K. and E.U. must agree to any extension and the decision must be taken before July 1, 2020.

The release of the draft withdrawal agreement has caused further instability within the U.K. government with several members of Prime Minister Theresa May’s party resigning, including the Brexit secretary who was involved in the negotiation process. European leaders, including Mrs. May, are scheduled to meet on Nov. 25 to discuss the draft agreement and potentially accept it. However, the political situation in the U.K. may be such that the agreement is not accepted by the country’s parliament, perhaps leading to a no-deal Brexit.

For the aviation industry, there are two references to Regulation (EC) 1008/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of Sept. 24, 2008, on common rules for the operation of air services in the European Economic Community (EEC). This regulation allows any E.U. registered airline to operate services without restriction within the 28 member countries in the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA).

There is not a lot of detail to be found in the draft document of what air services agreement will be in place beyond the transition period. However, an 8-page outline issued by the European Commission of ‘the political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom ‘provides a statement of intent that the parties will seek a “Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, covering market access and investment, aviation safety and security, air traffic management and provisions to ensure open and fair competition.”

Prior to the release this week of the draft withdrawal agreement, the British government issued a research paper on the impact of Brexit on transportation, which included scenarios for a no-deal British exit. The paper includes a summary of the current state of talks between the U.K. and U.S. for a future bilateral air services agreement. The paper concludes that the talks are ongoing with no updates on the state of the talks since May. This followed a previous research paper issued by the government in October which outlined the effect on the aviation sector of the U.K. after leaving the E.U.

The final statement on the talks between the U.S. and U.K. in the research paper, though relating specifically to that agreement, sums up the uncertainty that airlines operating to and from the U.K. continue to face:

If there are difficulties reaching agreement it is not entirely clear what happens, specifically whether UK-US arrangements would revert back to the Bermuda II bilateral agreement, signed by the two countries in 1946 and last amended in 1991. The aviation market has changed considerably since then and any reversion to Bermuda II could cause disruption to UK airlines and transatlantic trade and passenger routes.”

John Flett
John Flett
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