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U.K. and EU Agreement Awaits Ratification for Post-Brexit Aviation Operations


British Airways tails at Heathrow Airport. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | James Dinsdale)

On Christmas Eve the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (U.K.) and the European Union (EU) announced that an agreement had been reached on future trade and cooperation. The agreement is because of the U.K. leaving the EU on Jan. 31 this year and the transition period of abiding by EU laws ending on 31 December. The agreement would avoid a ‘No Deal Brexit’ which would affect current regulations in place between the two parties but is still to be ratified by the U.K. parliament and the 27 EU member states.

For aviation the agreement if ratified would provide some continuity of operation from 1 January 2021. There had been concern within the industry that a worst-case scenario ‘No Deal Brexit’ would further disrupt the industry at a time when the CoVid-19 pandemic has severely affected the aviation industry throughout the world. This has been particularly evident in recent days with the identification of a variant strain of the virus within the U.K. resulting in over 50 countries shutting their borders to U.K. citizens and some nations halting commercial air services to the four nations of the U.K.

Aviation occupies 25 of the 1246 pages of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement on sections such as route schedules, traffic rights and aviation security. Airline ownership is fully defined within the agreement and to be considered a U.K. or EU airline a carrier must fulfill clear criteria of majority ownership. For U.K. carriers a summary of the criteria requires that the airline is “effectively controlled by the United Kingdom, its nationals, or both,” has its principal place of business in the territory of the United Kingdom;” and “holds an air operator certificate issued by the competent authority of the United Kingdom.”

With the agreement being released on Christmas Eve some of the detail and its effect on the industry is still to be clarified by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The only press release from the CAA on Christmas Eve is in relation to Santa Claus being authorized to use drones to deliver presents on Christmas Day. Of particular interest to U.K. and EU commercial pilots, cabin crew and engineers will be how licensing arrangements will be administered from Jan. 1 2021.

On the CAA’s microsite dedicated to the end of the U.K. – EU transition period the authority has placed the following statement:

“The UK-EU trade deal announced on 24 December 2020, includes agreements on air transport and aviation safety which are due to come into effect at 23.00 GMT on 31 December 2020 when the UK ceases to take part in the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and other EU institutions.

While the agreements involve some elements of continuity, they do not constitute a replication of the UK’s regulatory arrangements as part of the EASA/EU framework. Many sections of the aviation and aerospace industries will face changes after 31 December, as this microsite sets out.

We will study the detail of the new agreements and will update relevant pages of the microsite as information becomes clearer about how the new arrangements will work in practice.”

John Flett


  • John Flett

    John has always had a passion for aviation and through a career with Air New Zealand has gained a strong understanding of aviation operations and the strategic nature of the industry. During his career with the airline, John held multiple leadership roles and was involved in projects such as the introduction of both the 777-200 and -300 type aircraft and the development of the IFE for the 777-300. He was also part of a small team who created and published the internal communications magazines for Air New Zealand’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff balancing a mix of corporate and social content. John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management. John is currently the course director of an undergraduate commercial pilot training programme at a leading London university. In addition he is contracted as an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.

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