The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) addresses specific problems in the field of aviation safety which could arise in the event of a "no-deal" Brexit and endorses the Commission's proposal to temporarily extend the application of EU legislation.
International aviation plays a key role in ensuring economic and sustainable growth, but this can only happen if high levels of uniform safety standards are maintained, implemented by all stakeholders and monitored by empowered agencies. Brexit may jeopardise safety aviation standards and their uniform application in Europe, as the pertinent EU regulations could no longer apply to UK aviation stakeholders from 30 March 2019.
In the opinion adopted at the February plenary session and drafted by Thomas McDonogh, the EESC warns of these dangers and backs the Commission's proposal on a contingency plan in the aviation sector in case of a "no-deal" scenario.
Contingency measures are required as a matter of urgency to mitigate possible damage to air travel between the EU and the UK, said Mr McDonogh.
The EU regulation should only become effective to resolve aviation safety issues which could not otherwise be resolved. The purpose is not to extend the status quo, but to offer a temporary solution to enable the sector to continue to adhere to the highest safety standards until the UK has established national agencies and national legislation to assume the role of a safety agency, he added.
In the event of no ratification of the EU-UK withdrawal agreement and in the absence of any other legal basis, it is unclear:
- whether certificates issued by the UK under EU law would still be valid,
- how UK registered airlines could obtain the required certification after Brexit, and, finally
- how repair and maintenance companies in the UK could continue to deliver spare parts and services with the licensing as required by EU law.
In order to cover the Brexit "no-deal" scenario and sort out these issues, the Commission has put together a contingency action plan, which would provide a legal basis to ensure a smooth transition to the application of UK law. Specific measures would be adopted to ensure continued validity of certificates for certain aeronautical products, parts, appliances and companies. This would provide the sector with the required assurances that the certification process will not be jeopardised during the UK's transition from being a Member State to the status of a third country.
In many areas, stakeholders could try to address pending issues related to the continued validity of the certificates by turning to a civil aviation authority of the EU27, or applying for a third country certificate issued by the European Aviation safety Agency (EASA). However, there are sectors where such an option would not be possible without a legal basis.
In order to establish the required consensus on the mutual recognition of certificates issued by the UK and other parties, the Committee urges the United Kingdom to conclude bilateral safety agreements as soon as possible with the EU and with other third countries.