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Consequences of Brexit for aviation: a brief overview

maandag 8 februari 2021

This article briefly discusses the consequences of Brexit for the aviation industry. On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom officially left the European Union (EU). From that moment, a transition period started during which the United Kingdom continued to apply European law. In the meantime, negotiations for a Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TDA) took place.

At the end of 2020, the European Commission and the United Kingdom concluded on a Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which includes agreements on future cooperation with the EU. This cooperation also entails air traffic. This article discusses (1) the impact of Brexit on air transport and (2) the new cooperation.

Loss of aviation rights due to Brexit

By leaving the EU, the UK has lost several important rights:

  • UK airlines will no longer participate in the fully liberalized EU aviation market. Consequently, they can no longer operate flights between EU destinations under the licences issued by the UK;
  • The UK no longer participates in the drafting of European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) standards.

With EU membership, the UK had access to 44 countries, representing approximately 85% of international air traffic. This right expires, which means that UK airlines will not have unrestricted access to EU air routes. Indeed, this is reserved for EU airlines. An EU airline exists if more than 50% of the company belongs to an EU person who has effective control.

Trade and Cooperation agreement and aviation UK

The loss of those rights is partially addressed by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TDA), but it does not equal the level of economic integration the UK had when she was a member state. The TDA includes a free trade agreement that provides for continuous sustainable aviation connectivity. It ensures equal competition between operators and protection of passenger rights. However, market access is not as good as the single market that member states have access to.

Specifically, the following benefits have been agreed on for UK aviation:

  • Unlimited point-to-point air traffic is possible between EU and UK airports;
  • EU member states can agree on a bilateral fifth freedom with the UK for additional EU air cargo;
  • EU-UK cooperation in aviation safety, aviation security and aviation management continues;
  • Ground handling, slots and passenger rights provisions have been agreed, in addition to horizontal clauses on environmental, social and competition equity.

Conclusion Brexit and international aviation

In short, the level playing field mainly remains. The United Kingdom can continue to fly within the European Union after Brexit without restrictions and passenger rights will remain protected. However, border control will change, which means that British airports will have a different layout.

Aviation lawyer

Michelle Reevers of LVH Advocaten specializes in aviation law. She regularly assists airlines in all kinds of aviation related issues. If you have any questions about the consequences of Brexit for aviation, please feel free to contact Michelle.

Michelle Reevers

aviation, enterprise and business 

+31 (0)10 209 27 75
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