The clock is ticking on negotiations. It was on 29 March 2017 that the UK notified to the European Council its intention to leave the European Union (EU). For quite a while the reassurance that has been going around the aviation industry is that: “no deal” Brexit is “not the likely outcome”.
Now preparations for the next meeting of the European Council (Article 50) are well underway as the next meeting takes place this month. Some are saying that; unless real and substantial progress is made by the European Council meeting, the Brexit deal could fall through. So, the unlikely may become a bit more likely. What would that mean?
Let’s spend a minute or two considering the “no deal” outcome. Basically, as the name suggests, we arrive in March 2019 and nothing is formally agreed between UK and EU. This would be an unprecedented situation. In aviation we are accustomed to having abnormal and emergency procedures to address failures but, as far as we know, no such procedures exit for a Members State to crash out of the EU. It might be obvious to say but I sincerely hope that someone is considering the shape and form of such procedures, even if it’s possible they will never be used.
Back to the “crash out” scenario. The UK’s long and successful membership of the EU has meant that most aviation agreements struck before entry are null and void or have been superseded. There’s little documentation to resurrect that would make sense in the current environment so defining relationships would have to fall back to the most basic international provisions.
From the EU perspective, the default would seem to be that the UK becomes one “third country” in a long list. That’s a “third country” without aviation agreements like for example; Turkey or Ukraine.
Just considering air operations. Europe has a centralised system to authorise “third-country” operators undertaking commercial air transport operations into the EU. So, all UK aircraft operators that wished to fly into Europe would first need to apply for TCO approval.
On the positive side, TCO is about establishing that an air operator is compliant with the applicable standards of the ICAO Annexes to the Chicago Convention. In the case of the UK, initially this should be administrative given that UK air operators’ aircraft are currently in the European system.
In the longer term this can mean more audits and inspections dependent upon the performance of air operator in question. In this event it’s interesting to speculate if the UK would extend its own assessment of foreign operations. Clearly, the paperwork piles up and however focused and well managed this administrative and technical work maybe, it’s the sort of duplication everyone has been trying to eliminate for the last 40 years. Turning the clock back.
 1 January 1973