Did you know that Britain’s planes risk having nowhere to land after Brexit?
Officials negotiating Brexit will be working hard to ensure the UK continues to enjoy the benefits of a quarter century old airline market liberalization. For an industry generating £60bn a year through air traffic, the UK‘s aviation industry will need to remain part of the network of international deals it currently enjoys.
Britain is facing a major dilemma, having to choose between sovereignty and access, in a process that presents both legal and practicality challenges. The negotiations are also likely to reopen controversial political topics such as with Spain over Gibraltar, which could dampen Brexit talks.
Britain risks losing the operating rights in Europe and around the world; a benefit that comes with operating in the EU’s single aviation market. Negotiating new terms would also mean starting off at low base levels of access.
A 1990s regulation removed national barriers, allowing airlines unlimited rights to fly within Europe. This was a major incentive for budget airlines such as easyJet, which has enjoyed the market access that came with the ‘deregulation’.
Thomas van der Wijngaart, aviation expert at Clyde & Co says: “Pre-1992, it was all bilateral agreements, with strict rules on passenger numbers and services per week, the airlines that could operate, the airports served, and the prices offered.”
The UK could opt to retain membership of the European Common Aviation Area, which would provide unlimited access to all EU destinations. However, that would require acceptance of all EU aviation law and European courts, which Theresa May has described as a “red line”.
Another alternative would be for the UK to have its own bilateral agreement with the EU, as Switzerland does. This too would require acceptance of EU aviation law.
Britain could also opt for an “open skies” agreement, allowing flights in and out of the EU, as long as they start and end in Britain, which is the current arrangement between the EU and the US.