The EU Single Aviation Market is the world’s largest and most successful example of regional market integration and liberalisation in air transport. So a look around the departure lounge of the Isle of Man’s Ronaldsway airport on the morning of 24 June revealed a host of shocked faces as the result of the UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union unfolded. A straw poll of the 150 delegates attending the Isle of Man aviation conference the day before had shown only a small handful supporting Brexit.
Naturally there has been much press speculation in the short time since the vote on the expected impact of this fundamental change in the UK’s relationship with Europe. Marc Bailey, CEO of the British Business and General Aviation Association, stated before the result was known: “Undertaking business activities for the general business aviation and GA fraternity in the UK is fully integrated within an international framework and it will continue to be that way, irrespective of any decisions made in the UK.”
There will, of course, be no change until the UK government triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, at which time the two-year negotiations for exit will start. The shape of the UK aviation sector post-Brexit will be determined by the ability and willingness of the UK government to retain access to the EU aviation market, or to build new relationships with non-EU countries, to protect passengers and businesses alike.
The key areas for negotiation will be the EU Single Aviation Market, along with cabotage restrictions for charter operators flying with the EU, the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA) and aviation agreements agreed between the EU and third countries, such as the EU / US “Open Skies” agreement. Other areas will include the UK’s membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the EU VAT area. In the short term we may see market and currency exchange volatility, creating challenges for the sector.