The airline industry plays a central role in the economies of the UK and the rest of the EU. It is, as with other leading sectors, exposed by the current uncertainties in Brexit negotiations, thus it remains anxious to state why its case should receive priority treatment.
It is not only Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary, the CEO of Europe’s biggest budget airline who constantly warns of potential flight cancellations if Brexit negotiations don’t achieve a swift and acceptable deal with Brussels.
Warnings come also from America’s biggest aviation trade body (A4A) representing American Airlines, Southwest and United Airlines which has called for the negotiating parties to give consultations a priority saying it is “absolutely essential” that new deals are struck with Europe and the United States.
Nicholas Calio, President and CEO of Airlines for America (A4A) has expressed fears that : “If there is no agreement between the UK and EU by March 2019, other sectors (manufacturing and commerce) fall back on WTO rules but we have no legal framework under which to fly,” He is not alone among CEOs eager to lobby their sectoral interests with EU decision makers and the UK government.
For the US which counts the UK its biggest trading partner within the EU, a deal, is essential for it to maintain and develop Heathrow as its main hub for entry to the EU hinterland. For the UK, a smooth transition is vital with any transitional arrangements being, at best, a temporary measure.
‘Time Is of the Essence’
Michael O’Leary expressing urgency sees March 2019 date as far too late. He told the EU Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee on the 10th July 2017 – because of the structure of selling tickets well in advance the deadline for the airlines is September – October 2018. Without progress the message he gave in other interviews was that… “We will start cancelling flights from six months before Brexit.”
O’Leary’s pessimistic views on the Referendum outcome are well-known. Voicing his criticism on countless occasions he has stated … “ I think Brexit is going to be one of the great economic suicide notes in history …”
What Is at Stake?
The continuation of an Open Skies Agreement – allowing EU airlines including those registered in the UK to operate in each other’s countries – is vital for the future of aviation between the UK and the EU. The importance of this applies equally to airlines of other countries such as those in United States Asia and the Middle East. Under the US-EU Open Skies agreement of 2007, US and European air carriers are free to operate flights from any point in the European Union to any point in the United States and vice versa.
Professing Britain’s cherished belief in global trade, it is inconceivable for the (UK) government to support anything but an open and deregulated aviation market. But negotiating with Brussels will be complicated as decisions on all aspects of future economic relations with Britain require the approval of both the EU27 and the EU Parliament. Politicians on all sides of the political spectrum need to be constantly reminded of this and aim to inform their constituents of the difficulties that lie ahead. Doing this may help to damper the unrealistic aspirations of hardened euro-sceptics indulging in the belief that the rest of the world is queueing up to sign off trade deals.
What Are the Options for the UK?
The best option would be for the UK to remain part of the European Common Aviation Area. This would provide continued access to the European Single Aviation Market but entails accepting all EU aviation law plus the direct jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) . Even negotiating a customized/bespoke arrangement/deal (option 2) similar to the Open Skies agreement – between the EU and the US – would require accepting the ECJ which has vigorously championed airline passengers’ consumer protection and compensation rights.
Legal experts have begun to express serious doubts that the UK can have a deal which escapes European court supervision. Any new domestic court would have to mirror EU rules and so be tied to the ECJ in all but name.
What Makes Aviation a Special Case?
Depending on the outcome of negotiations, there may be issues for the UK as not being a member of the EU it would need an Air Operating Licence (AOC) across Europe – required by UK airlines to operate in the EU if there was a hard Brexit. Added to this is the fact that “a UK airline having an AOC may simply be not enough” as the real issue relates to ownership. Non-European entities are not allowed to own a majority share in European airlines and vice versa. Representations to have this rule softened have been advanced but with no immediate results.
Easyjet has taken no chances. As a UK registered airline it has more to lose than Ryanair (based in Dublin). This has prompted EasyJet to establish an EU AOC choosing Vienna as its European headquarters.
UK airlines seem unanimous in the opinion that a hard Brexit will lead to reduced competition, reduced routes and higher travel prices. This concern is shared by UK consumers, with many convinced that Brexit will lead to more expensive holidays made worse by the weak sterling/euro exchange rate.
The airline industry agrees that it is absolutely essential that an Open Skies Agreement is put in place between the UK and the EU – as well as between the United States and the UK, with each being operational immediately after the UK’s departure from the EU (March 2019).
Farage: “Kill Off” Remain Campaign with Second Vote
A new vote on the issue of Brexit will “kill it off” for a generation, claims Nigel Farage.
The former UKIP leader said he was considering a second referendum as a means to settle disputes surrounding the first referendum result. He also claimed that those who would vote ‘Leave’ would be higher than the 52% who voted last time.
EXCLUSIVE – Nigel Farage says “just maybe I’m reaching the point of thinking that we should have a second referendum on EU membership”.@Nigel_Farage | @Matthew_Wright | #wrightstuff pic.twitter.com/T0fROToskr
— The Wright Stuff (@5WrightStuff) January 11, 2018
“What is for certain is the Cleggs, the Blairs, the Adonises will never ever ever give up. They will keep on whingeing and whining and moaning all the way through this process… I’m [maybe] reaching the point of thinking that we should have a second referendum.”
“I think if we have a second referendum on EU membership we’d kill it off for a generation, the percentage that would vote to leave next time would be very much bigger.”
Farage had previously criticised politicians who were arguing for a second referendum. On Monday he called the former Labour politician, Andrew Adonis, a “twisting little weasel” for suggesting there should be a vote on the exit deal.
UKIP donor Arron Banks has also said he backs a second referendum as “the only option.”
The claim, which some have described as a U-turn, has created a storm on social media:
I agree with Nigel.
— Nick Clegg (@nick_clegg) January 11, 2018
In response, Adonis has interpreted Farage’s suggestion of a second referendum as a call for a vote on the exit deal:
So Nigel Farage wants a referendum on Mrs May’s Brexit deal. I agree. Bring it on!
— Andrew Adonis (@Andrew_Adonis) January 11, 2018
Some saw the funny side:
Nigel Farage calls for a second referendum. Brenda from Bristol responds: pic.twitter.com/6X62gRlDw6
— George Aylett (@GeorgeAylett) January 11, 2018
Downing Street was firm: “There will not be a second referendum.”
At a conference in Brussels earlier this week, EU President Jean-Claude Juncker said he didn’t believe a second referendum was very likely.
(Photo: By Euro Realist Newsletter (flickr.com) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
UK Wants EU Medicine Regulation
The UK hopes to remain under the watch of the EU medicine regulator after Brexit.
Editor’s Remarks: Despite calls from the some EU nations that the UK cannot cherry-pick the aspects of the single market that it will enjoy after leaving the bloc, Britain is pushing to remain under EU regulation for medicine. Similar moves have been made for the UK’s chemicals and aviation industries, which some hope will stay adherent to European safety standards and the jurisdiction of the ECJ. The apparent “red line” drawn by Theresa May regarding any future role of the ECJ in British affairs post-Brexit has evidently been blurred in recent months.
Read more on the UK:
Juncker: No Second Brexit Referendum
Jean-Claude Juncker has said he doesn’t think a second Brexit referendum is a serious possibility.
Speaking at a Brussels conference, Juncker said:
“Don’t believe those who say that it’s not going to happen and that people in the UK have realised their error… I don’t think that’s going to be the case.”
Prominent UK politicians such as the Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable and the former prime minister Tony Blair have both argued Brexit could be averted.
The European Commission President has also told other European countries to be prepared to increase their national contributions to the European budget. He added:
“I’m not in favour of any cuts,”…“Britain will be leaving us so we need to find a means [of] reacting to the loss of a significant number of billions in euros. It will be difficult for the budget coffers of Europe when a net contributor leaves.”
Britain is one of ten net contributors. At current spending, Brexit will leave the EU with a €12bn-€13bn annual shortfall.
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