The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) throws its support behind the Commission’s temporary regulation to secure basic air connectivity in case of a “no-deal” scenario.

The European Common Aviation Area (ECAA) plays a key role in ensuring economic growth and prosperity and in maintaining Europe’s competitiveness on the international market. As a result of Brexit, the UK will no longer be a member of the European single market and its aviation sector will no longer be part of the ECAA. If the UK withdrawal agreement is not ratified – the so-called “no‑deal” scenario – the EU legislation for air services, in particular Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008, will cease to apply between the EU and the UK, bringing about legal uncertainty, jeopardising planning stability and endangering continued connectivity.

In the opinion adopted at the February plenary session, drawn up by Jacek Krawczyk, the EESC endorses the thrust of the Commission’s proposal for a contingency regulation to ensure basic air services in an increasingly likely “no withdrawal agreement” scenario.

The EESC points out that the proposed regulation cannot be seen as an extension of the current rules, or indeed even as a unilateral withdrawal agreement, because the rights contained in the document are rightly limited in time and purpose. “The proposed regulation is a temporary solution and represents a contingency plan to reduce the impact of an abrupt Brexit,” declared Mr Krawczyk. “It is the only realistic way to mitigate possible serious negative consequences to be expected for the aviation sector, if the withdrawal agreement is not ratified before 29 March 2019.”

The limitation of the commercial opportunities to the third and fourth freedom services (the core elements of connectivity) between the EU and the UK is logical and consistent and further commercial opportunities for EU and British airlines (fifth freedom operations: cargo) will have to be discussed in the negotiations on a future air service agreement (ASA).

The EESC urges the two parties to conduct these negotiations without delay in order to re-establish a legal basis for robust airline competition between the carriers, and stands ready to provide valuable contributions from organised civil society stakeholders from the EU-27.

During the transition period and whilst negotiating a new air service agreement – in view of the serious economic and social consequences of the “no-deal” Brexit scenario – the Commission should also develop a transparent monitoring mechanism, allowing for close cooperation with civil society organisations.