Aviation deal as a priority in the Brexit negotiations

Working closely with the European trade association for airports, ACI EUROPE, the AOA is setting out the importance of prioritising aviation in the upcoming negotiations on the UK’s exit from the EU.

Aviation is legally unique: it is separate from trade agreements and does not form part of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) system. Instead, countries negotiate bilateral or multilateral air services agreements to provide airlines with the legal rights to fly to certain places. These can be very restricted (e.g. one flight a week to a specific airport only) or very liberal (anytime, anywhere). Within the EU, this legal framework enabling connectivity is provided by the Single Aviation Market.

Chief Executive of the AOA, Karen Dee said:

“To build a truly global Britain, international aviation connectivity will be crucial. Already, nearly three-quarters of visitors to the UK and 40% of the UK’s trade by value travel by air. UK airports stand ready to facilitate this future connectivity.

“To enable the UK’s connectivity to continue and to grow, the UK will need to negotiate a new air services agreement with the EU and agreements with countries like the US to replace the existing EU-level agreements the UK is part of.

“If there are no such agreements by the time the UK leaves the EU, the UK’s connectivity will be undermined and its ability to trade will be made significantly more difficult. It is therefore important that we reach agreement of a transitional deal on aviation early in negotiations to provide certainty for business and consumers.”

UK-EU aviation connectivity

Research undertaken by the AOA, based on the CAA’s most recent full set of aviation statistics (2015), show that the UK’s air traffic is predominantly with the EU – more than one in two passengers travel between the UK and EU. The importance of this varies from airport to airport, with some airports predominantly serving EU destinations and other airports serving a more balanced mixture of EU, domestic and international destinations.

Certain countries see major passengers flows with the UK, with Spain accounting for more than a quarter of all passengers travelling between the UK and the EU. Germany, Italy, Ireland and France each see just under ten per cent.

Karen Dee added:

“Figures released today demonstrate how interconnected the UK and the EU aviation markets are. This is the result of the EU’s Single Aviation Market, which left the old, restrictive approach to aviation behind and instead encouraged liberalisation and competition.

“The UK was the driving force behind the creation of this open and liberal approach to air connectivity within the EU. This has benefited UK consumers and businesses alike: more destinations are served from the UK more frequently and at lower fares than ever before, thanks to the rise of new business models in aviation and removing all restrictions on which destinations could be served.

“It is important that UK families going on holiday and businesspeople seeking out new trade opportunities can continue to enjoy the benefits we see today of an open aviation market.”

Negotiations on new agreements

In preparation for the UK’s exit negotiations, the AOA has worked closely with the UK Government.

Karen Dee said:

“We have been working very closely with Government to ensure that they understand how important future air connectivity is to the UK. And we are heartened by research by ComRes for the AOA which shows that more than 80% of MPs support prioritising aviation in the upcoming negotiations.

“While this is encouraging, ensuring the legal framework for aviation links with the EU continues seamlessly once the UK leaves will in part depend on how other EU countries approach the negotiations. AOA would urge politicians and policymakers across the EU to recognise the value of integrated markets that deliver clear value to the consumer and have created unprecedented connectivity for all EU countries.

“We look forward to working with our partners across the aviation industry in Europe to make the case at home and abroad for a new agreement that allows everyone to continue to reap the benefits of an open, liberal and integrated aviation market.”