UK looks to stay in EASA after Brexit


British prime minister Theresa May has said that the UK is keen to stay involved in the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) after it exits from the EU.

This is the first time that the UK has formally stated that it is keen to stay part of EASA. It is due to leave the EU at 11pm on 29 March 2019, and the statement by PM May has been welcomed by the UK aviation industry.

“We will also want to explore with the EU, the terms on which the UK could remain part of EU agencies such as those that are critical for the chemicals, medicines and aerospace industries: the European Medicines Agency, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), and the European Aviation Safety Agency,” said prime minister May. “We would, of course, accept that this would mean abiding by the rules of those agencies and making an appropriate financial contribution.”

EASA’s roles include drafting aviation legislation for both the European Commission and member states; implementing legislation – including coordinating inspections, training and standards; certification of aircraft, engines and parts and; approving maintenance organizations.

EASA is an EU institution but countries do not need to be members of the EU to be members. Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway are all full members and contribute to EASA’s budget.

“The UK being forced to disengage from EASA in some way would be a tragedy not just for the UK but also for EASA – it is surely difficult to argue other than that the UK continuing in EASA is in everyone’s best interests. The UK has historically made a substantial contribution to EASA both in terms of skills and funding – providing about 50 members of staff and paying over Eu5 million per year to the budget. It is one of the biggest technical contributors to EASA’s working groups,” says Mark Bisset, partner at Clyde & Co and author of a special Brexit report published by the European Business Aviation Association. “The UK has also always been willing to share with EASA the expertise of the Civil Aviation Authority. It’s encouraging to see that EASA is being raised at the highest political levels – let’s hope the same now applies to other Brexit-related issues for aviation such as traffic rights.”

The UK is likely to make EASA rulings binding by replicating them in its own aviation legislation.

“In some cases, Parliament might choose to pass an identical law – businesses who export to the EU tell us that it is strongly in their interest to have a single set of regulatory standards that mean they can sell into the UK and EU markets,” said the prime minister. “If the Parliament of the day decided not to achieve the same outcomes as EU law, it would be in the knowledge that there may be consequences for our market access.”

The speech has also been welcomed by aerospace companies that rely on EASA certification.

“Today’s proposal from the Prime Minister to seek continued UK membership of EU agencies that regulate aerospace and chemicals offers welcome reassurance to our industries over the Government’s plans for Brexit. We need arrangements that protect our deeply integrated supply chains, ensure passenger safety, and avoid creating new regulatory or customs barriers to trade with the EU, our largest export market,” said Jeegar Kakkad, chief economist of UK aerospace trade-body group ADS in a press release.  “Continued membership of agencies like EASA and the ECHA is key to achieving these ambitions, and both UK and EU negotiators must take the opportunity to agree practical solutions, including on judicial oversight.”