Opinion: Brexit generates heat but little light for UK aviation

14 September 2018
UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling (pictured on 13 September), said the UK government remains confident of avoiding a no-deal Brexit, but the Civil Aviation Authority is making contingency plans. Source: Getty Images

The UK government has postponed the release of an impact paper describing the effects on aviation of a ‘no deal Brexit’ – and it unclear if it will ever be published.

Uncertainty and a lack of clarity prevail as the clock ticks down to 29 March 2019. UK broadcaster Sky News on 11 September reported that thousands of EASA aviation licences for pilots and aircraft may have to be reissued in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit; but this claim was rebutted by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which insisted that pilot licences will continue to be internationally recognised (under ICAO rules) even if a no-deal Brexit happens.

In June, the government set out its framework for a future UK-EU partnership for aviation and other modes of transport. It aims to secure “liberal aviation market access arrangements”, including continued engagement with EASA (Prime Minister Theresa May suggested associate membership in a speech in March), but it has added little meaningful flesh to the bones.

As with other aspects of the Brexit negotiations, it is proving very difficult for the two sides to reach agreement. Paul Everitt, chief executive of UK industry organisation ADS, was sufficiently concerned on 7 September to warn the European Commission in a letter that the CAA cannot hold detailed bilateral “technical preparedness” talks with EASA, because the Commission has repeatedly refused permission until after the UK leaves the EU.

“This is inconsistent with the letter and the spirit of the Commission and Council [of Ministers] calling on stakeholders to prepare for the consequences of Brexit,” Everitt told Sabine Weyand, deputy chief Brexit negotiator for the European Commission, referring to previous statements from Brussels.

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