The UK will seek to remain a third-party member of EASA


The United Kingdom will seek to remain a third-party member of EASA when it formally leaves the European Union on 29 March 2019.

In the Government’s The United Kingdom’s exit from, and new partnership with, the European Union White Paper, Parliament claims that it will follow countries like Switzerland and become a third-country member of EASA under the agency’s Article 66.

This means that the UK could remain part of EASA and maintain working relationships with other non-EU participants and EU countries though losing its voting rights.

Since the UK voted with a slim majority to leave the EU in June 2016, the aviation industry has been on tenterhooks to see exactly what rights the country will lose when the country will officially leave. Some of the largest aviation companies serving the UK, such as EasyJet, expressed concerns about what rights and benefits UK-based airlines will lose and have pre-empted any adverse outcomes by moving a number of operations abroad.

After two years of promises and assurances, the UK government has proposed an Air Transport Agreement which “seeks to maintain reciprocal liberalised aviation access between and within the territory of the UK and the EU, alongside UK participation in EASA.”

The report outlines exactly what that means: “This would permit UK and EU carriers to operate air services to, from and within the territory of both the UK and the EU on an equal basis. This could be supported through an approach to ownership and control that avoids introducing additional barriers to businesses.

“There is precedent for this within the EU-Canada Air Services Agreement, which provides for the possibility of fully liberalised access subject to a sufficiently open bilateral approach to ownership and control.”

As part of the UK’s seeking to remain a member of EASA, the country’s government led by Theresa May has proposed an agreement to maintain close cooperation on air-traffic management. Through this partnership, the government hopes to: “Maintain interoperability, and benefit consumers and the environment, through reduced journey times, lower costs and lower emissions.”

Whilst EASA was perhaps the greatest concern for many aviation companies based in the UK, the government White Paper does not contain a single specific mention of the European single aviation market, of the EU-US Open Skies agreement or of the Airports Single European Sky agreement.

The report only alludes to these agreements and freedoms, saying: “It is in the UK’s and the EU’s interests to protect the connectivity, choice and value for money that UK and EU consumers enjoy today. Moreover, the future arrangements should allow for innovation within the industry, giving flexibility to current and future airlines to offer greater choice and connectivity to passengers.”