The European Commission has proposed temporary measures to avoid a catastrophic breakdown of airline operations if the UK leaves the European Union on March 30 without an exit deal.
Without the measures, flights between the UK and EU could have stopped altogether while UK-manufactured parts, and by extension the aircraft that incorporate them, could have lost regulatory approval.
Instead, the commission has proposed that UK carriers can continue operating point-to-point flights between the UK and Europe – but not between EU countries – for 12 months.
It has also proposed to extend for nine months the validity of type certificates, since EASA would not be able to issue certificates on the basis of UK-issued licences until the UK regains its status as a “State of Design”.
This would ensure that parts for which a certificate of conformity was issued by a UK company before the withdrawal date can still be used in and on aircraft.
To some advocates of a hard Brexit, the commission proposals might appear to justify their argument that European self-interest will mitigate the worst effects of a decisive break from the union.
However, the commission has stressed that it is only seeking to ensure “basic connectivity” and the temporary measures would still impose significant constraints on UK aviation companies. Airlines would not be allowed to add routes or frequencies to the EU, for example, while manufacturers would not be entitled to issue new type certificates.
Larger companies could still get around this. Rolls-Royce, for instance, is to move engine design approval to Germany. The effects on smaller manufacturers without foreign operations are harder to gauge, though.
The commission’s proposals still need ratification and depend on reciprocal treatment by UK authorities.