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Secret letters reveal EU regulator refused talks with UK on Brexit flight deal

Alanna Petroff
Senior Economics Correspondent at Yahoo Finance UK

The head of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has refused to work with his UK counterpart on a post-Brexit arrangement for flights, according to newly published letters released late on Thursday.

The letters were published by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) based on a Freedom of Information request from the BBC.

The correspondence between the two men highlights the possibility that thousands of flights could be grounded between the UK and European Union after Brexit takes place on 29 March 2019.

The conversation started when the head of the CAA contacted the EASA in June, saying he wanted both sides “to undertake technical discussions” about Brexit and create a “joint transition plan.”

EASA’s executive director Patrick Ky responded in July, saying that any conversations between the two sides would be “premature” since politicians had to finalise a Brexit deal first.

The EASA, he said, had informed airlines and stakeholders about the grave implications of the UK falling out of the EU’s legal and regulatory framework for aviation safety. But there was no such clarity from the CAA, he said.

“Clarity is needed ahead of any technical discussion,” Ky said.

UK’s warning on flights

Last month, the UK government laid bare how European-bound flights from the UK could be grounded in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The government warned that if it’s unable to reach a comprehensive Brexit deal with its EU counterparts, UK-based airlines would have to seek permission each time they plan to fly from the UK to Europe.

This could affect about 11,000 flights from the UK to the EU each week, according to flight data from Flightglobal.

Aviation experts and executives have been warning for over two years about the risk of disruptions and grounded flights in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Aerospace “is an industry being trapped between the political shenanigans going on between the UK government and the European Commission,” said Paul Everitt, chief executive at the aerospace trade group ADS, according to the BBC. “Unless we have a deal there is significant risk of disruption.”

Flights between the UK and EU could be grounded in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Last month, Ryanair (RYA.L) boss Michael O’Leary warned “there is no assurance” that flights between the EU and UK could continue.

Johan Lundgren, the CEO of rival British carrier easyJet (EZJ.L), has been less concerned about Brexit, recently saying he had been reassured by both Brussels and London that at least a basic agreement would be in place to enable flights to continue after Brexit.

UK airlines have sought to limit the potential damage by registering business units in the EU, and European airlines have done the same in the UK. This would theoretically allow UK domestic flights to continue operating, and EU flights to continue travelling between EU countries. But flights from the UK to the EU could face problems, or be blocked altogether.

What about US flights?

The UK government noted last month it is renegotiating air service agreements with 17 countries – including the US, Canada, Morocco and Israel – to keep flights moving.

These countries have air service agreements with the EU, but after Brexit, the UK won’t be part of these deals.

The government said it had finalised some agreements and was working on the rest, but did not specify which countries had agreed to new deals.


Related: What is a no-deal Brexit?

Related: What is Theresa May’s ‘Chequers’ plan for Brexit?