As Brexit negotiations have stalled, the European Commission (EC) has made the move to ensure basic air connectivity and aviation safety in the scenario if the United Kingdom exits the European Union (EU) in a no-deal scenario.
The EC announced four contingency measures in order to “cater for the period during which there is no agreement in place,” between the two parties. Firstly, the Commission introduced a proposal to ensure basic air connectivity. The proposal aims to “ensure the provision of certain air services between the UK and EU,” reads the EC’s press release. The measures would only be active if the UK would do the same and would last for six months starting from January 1, 2021, when the UK is set to leave the EU. In terms of aviation safety, the EC proposed to ensure that “various safety certificates for products can continue to be used in EU aircraft without disruption, thereby avoiding the grounding of EU aircraft.”
“Negotiations are still ongoing. However, given that the end of the transition is very near, there is no guarantee that if and when an agreement is found, it can enter into force on time,” stated the President of the EC Ursula von der Leyden. In addition to proposals to ensure air connectivity and aviation safety, the EC also urged to ensure basic road connectivity and fisheries.
Preparations for Brexit
While the January 1, 2021, deadline is right around the corner, airlines across the continent have been preparing for various scenarios of Brexit.
For example, the EU-registered Irish airline Ryanair established Ryanair UK, a subsidiary airline with a British Air Operators Certificate (AOC). So far, only one aircraft is registered to the British AOC – a Boeing 737-800NG registered as G-RUKA. One of Ryanair’s rivals, Wizz Air, also established its own UK-based airline. 10 aircraft are registered to Wizz Air’s British AOC, which was established in October 2017.
Meanwhile, the UK-based easyJet was not so shy about the move. The low-cost carrier established easyJet Europe in July 2017, and has transferred more than a third of its total aircraft (119 out of 322) to the Austria-based subsidiary.
“Brexit has been in shambles. The Johnson government has been completely exposed of their promises of an easy trade deal and sunny uplands. It is one of the great economic disasters to the UK, shooting themselves in the foot,” bluntly described Brexit Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary during EUROCONTROL Aviation Hardtalk Live. “I do not think it will affect air travel that much, people will still move between Europe and the UK, between the UK and Europe. I do think, however, the French and Germans are going to be very strong on trying to upset the BA [British Airways – ed. note] within the International Airlines Group (IAG) (IAG),” added the Irish executive.
IAG seemingly has remained calm regarding Brexit. In its 2019 annual report, the BA owner noted that “even in the event of no-deal after the transition period, Brexit will have no significant long-term impact on its business.”
In November 2020, the UK and the United States signed a separate Open Skies agreement to “facilitate a seamless transition in international air transportation markets for the traveling public, airlines, shippers, and other stakeholders,” according to the announcement, dated November 17.