Why post-Brexit UK needs an early agreement on aviation

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BALPA (The British Airline Pilots Association) is urging the EU and UK negotiating teams to come to an early agreement on aviation in the forthcoming talks. During the post-Brexit transition period to the end of 2020, the UK and EU must negotiate new trading arrangements or default to WTO rules. However, there are no WTO rules for aviation and so both the UK and EU must reach a deal for aviation whatever else is happening.

There is currently no clarity on two important issues – safety regulation and air service agreements.

There are three reasons why an early agreement on aviation is necessary and possible:

  1. There are no WTO rules to fall back on in aviation if there is no overarching trade deal agreed
  2. Aviation is absolutely vital to the UK economy – contributing £52 billion to UK GDP and supporting nearly one million jobs
  3. And because this is one area where the industry is overwhelmingly unified – we need to maintain current EU and UK access to our aviation markets and to maintain EASA safety regulations

It is common knowledge that without a UK-EU deal on aviation beyond the end of this year there is no alternative to catastrophic disruption to air transport. Both sides know they must avoid this. UK and EU officials and Ministers have already prepared a deal that keeps aviation rules and regulations aligned, which essentially allows for the status quo.

The key point is that 164 million passengers travelling back and forward between the UK and the EU – whether for work, business or for leisure – need to know now that they still can. The same applies to the £150 billion that UK and EU businesses exchange by air freight every year. It is damaging to everyone’s economies to have uncertainty, and there is no good reason for that uncertainty continuing in aviation when it is not a bargaining chip for either side.

The UK and EU should jointly publish their aviation proposals, allow for a period of scrutiny, and then get them agreed and parked. At least one area of uncertainty will be resolved and the risk of bad decisions by agreeing nothing until the last minute can be avoided.

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