Following considerable speculation on the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, the European Commission and the United Kingdom concluded the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (the ‘TCA’) on the 24th of December 2020. The TCA aims to encourage free trade and cooperation between the European Union and the United Kingdom in this newly established partnership.
Part Two of the TCA, which focuses on trade, transport and fisheries, has a particular section detailing the arrangements made between the UK and the EU relating to the management of air traffic, air transport services, passengers and aviation security.
Some of the most salient points set out in the TCA are:
The EU and the United Kingdom shall continue to have the freedom to travel across each other’s territory without landing, to make non-traffic stops in each other’s territory and to provide scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services within their territories.
In addition, EU member states and the UK can also enter into separate bilateral agreements and grant each other rights to make scheduled and non-scheduled stops in each other territories between points situated in their respective territories and a third country, thereby implementing the Fifth Freedom Right.
Cabotage rights, in aviation, refers to the right which a company may have to operate within another country. In the case of EU and UK airlines, this right has been removed. Therefore, a UK carrier would no longer be able to travel within a single Member State or from one member state to another. Likewise, it is not possible for an EU airline to perform internal flights within the United Kingdom.
In order for airline companies to conduct such functions, the issuance of a particular certificate or license may be sought from the EU Member State or the UK, as necessary.
Airline Ownership and Control
The TCA has set a twelve-month period for both the United Kingdom and the EU to negotiate and settle on further options for the continued mutual liberalisation of their air carriers’ ownership and control.
As of 1 January 2021, all persons travelling from the EU to the United Kingdom (and vice-versa) will be subject to border checks and will also have their passports stamped. A travel visa is only necessary for stays of more than 90 days over any span of 180 days.
Rights granted to European air passengers shall continue to be applicable for all flights departing from the UK to the EU on any European airline, and all flights departing from the EU to the UK. However, this is no longer applicable to UK-operated airlines coming into the EU from the UK.
Although wet leasing of aircraft crewed by a European licensed air carrier is allowed by UK and EU carriers, exemption justifications are required for wet leasing of aircraft crewed by a UK carrier by EU carriers. The UK or the EU may require their respective competent authorities to verify compliance with these conditions before any operating authorisations are issued.
Both UK and the EU have agreed on continued cooperation and reciprocity in the areas of civil aviation safety and environmental compatibility. The TCA defines the areas in which the parties agreed to collaborate and to develop common standards in the sector. It is expected that the UK will adopt its own standards however, these are not expected to differ from those which have already been implemented by the EU.
In addition, the UK shall no longer be able to contribute or participate through the EU Aviation Safety Agency.
The parties, through the TCA, have also agreed that both shall work together so that they maintain a high level of customer protection and ensure that appropriate and non-discriminatory measures are implemented so that the interests of consumers in air transport continue to be protected.
Although the withdrawal of the UK shall undoubtedly leave a mark on both sides, it can be seen that both the UK and the EU have strived to maintain a workable relationship. Without a question, the TCA has given air operators more privileges than those granted under the Contingency Regulations or than those which would have been granted under a no-deal scenario.
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