Europe’s airports call on UK to set detailed Brexit position

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The European airport industry today once again warned about Brexit and its potential impact on European air transport, connectivity and the wider economy during a public hearing in the European Parliament in Brussels.

The Airport Council International (ACI) Europe says more than a year on from the UK’s vote to leave the European Union (EU), the uncertainty as to what will happen when the UK will exit the EU has yet to subside.

At the same time, the airport trade body says the possibility of a cliff edge scenario – of the UK leaving the EU without a new trading relationship with the bloc being defined and agreed – “cannot be discarded”.

ACI Europe calls on the UK to “urgently come up with a detailed and comprehensive position on Brexit for aviation” and says this position should allow the UK to safeguard and further develop its air connectivity with the EU27 and beyond – recognising this as a “cornerstone of the country’s future prosperity” and continued participation in the Single European Aviation Market would be the best option.

ACI Europe director general, Olivier Jankovec says: “The clock has been ticking since March and negotiations already began last month. Yet, we remain completely in the dark as to what will happen on 1 April 2019 and we have no idea how long this uncertainty will persist.

“The fact that the UK has yet to define a clear and detailed position as to what it wants – not just in terms of its new relationship with the EU, but also about how to transition there – is not helping.

“This only results in precious time being lost and potentially increases the risk of a no-deal scenario – which should be avoided at all cost, as it could ultimately result in flights between the UK and the EU being suspended.”

ACI Europe says the uncertainty for aviation is higher than for other sectors, as are disruption risks relating to the above-mentioned ‘cliff edge scenario’, because WTO rules do not cover air transport services.

Jankovec says: “While falling back on WTO rules would still be far from ideal and would come with significant costs, it still means businesses can rely on an alternative legal framework allowing them to keep operating and plan for contingencies accordingly.

“That is not the case for aviation. As it now stands, in the absence of a deal on a transition or the future regime, aviation would simply fall into a legal vacuum – which if not addressed could simply mean no flights.”

ACI Europe also called for aviation to be prioritised as regards the order in which the different sectors will be dealt with when the time comes – hopefully – to negotiate the new UK-EU27 relationship.

ACI Europe also urges the UK and each of the EU27 countries to look at what alternative legal framework would apply to aviation in the case of a no deal scenario – as part of their own contingencies.