The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has consistently underlined the importance and size of the Single European Aviation Area as a catalyst for economic growth, prosperity and for maintaining Europe’s competitiveness internationally. Once the decision of the United Kingdom (UK) to cease to be a member of the European Union (BREXIT) comes into effect, all sectors of the UK’s economy will no longer be an integral part of the European Single Market; its aviation sector will no longer benefit from, and contribute to, the Single European Aviation Area. In an – increasingly probable – “no Withdrawal Agreement” scenario, the legislation of the EU, in particular Regulation 1008/2008, would cease to apply for air services between the UK and the EU. This creates legal uncertainty, jeopardises planning stability and endangers continued connectivity for services between the UK and the EU.
The EESC supports the thrust of the proposed Regulation as a contingency measure to secure basic air connectivity, given that the Regulation cannot be seen as an extension of Regulation 1008/2008, or indeed even a unilateral Withdrawal Agreement. The rights contained in the proposed Regulation are rightly limited in time and purpose. The limitation of the commercial opportunities to 3rd and 4th freedom services between the EU and the UK is logical and consistent. Further commercial opportunities for airlines of the EU and the UK must be the subject of negotiations of future ASA between EU and UK.
In view of the economic and social consequences of this worst-case scenario, it is crucial that the Commission develops a transparent and close monitoring mechanism. Such a mechanism should foresee also close cooperation between the Commission and the social partners and civil society organizations prior to, during the transition period, and whilst negotiating a new air service agreement.