An extraordinary slew of events in the top tier of UK government threatens to destabilise the British aviation industry. The high-profile departures of five Tory government officials, including two cabinet members – Brexit secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – puts Theresa May’s government under immense pressure to produce a viable Brexit strategy.
At this late stage in the game, the deep divisions in the Tory government have led to a boiling point. This surely heightens the potential of a no-deal Brexit. What does this mean for the future of the British aviation industry?
How Brexit Could Impact British Aviation
The UK and EU aviation sectors are heavily integrated, with the UK falling into regulatory alignment with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Paul Everitt, the Chief Executive of the Aerospace, Defence, Security & Space (ADS) Group, has stated that “Continued regulatory harmonisation is a necessity”.
At the moment, UK aircraft and UK-made parts have EASA certification, which has recognition beyond the EU. A no-deal Brexit could see the UK tumble out of EASA jurisdiction. This would result in a calamitous standstill as UK aircraft lose foreign validation and aircraft worldwide incorporating UK-made parts enter a period of enforced grounding.
Following the tumultuous series of events in government, there is greater urgency for post-Brexit planning between EASA and the UK. However, any such planning would need authorisation from the European Commission. Up to now, attempts made at obtaining authorisation have been refused.
Brexit Raises Concern Over Air Transport
Brexit uncertainty has so far seen immediate action taken by those with concerns about air transport agreements. Wijet, the air taxi company and exclusive partner of Air France, has shut down its UK operations and plans expansion in mainland Europe. Similarly, Easyjet intends to establish a new airline ‘Easyjet Europe’ with its headquarters in Vienna. Meanwhile, Flybe has reportedly put a stop to plans for intra-European flights. Ryanair and Airbus have been openly critical and have issued ominous warnings should the potential no-deal scenario become reality.
Airbus chief executive Tom Enders has threatened to withdraw investment in the UK, and Ryanair plan to place a Brexit conditionality on its tickets from September onwards, which will read “This flight is subject to the regulatory environment allowing the flight to take place”, should the need of enforced grounding arise.
With tensions and divisions mounting, the uncertainty has the very real potential to spiral into a Brexit blackhole. The British aviation industry may take the biggest blow.