Airline association ‘confident’ of Brexit deal

The head of the ERA European airlines association has expressed “confidence” in an EU-UK deal on aviation, but said “the posturing has to stop”.

Simon McNamara, director general of the European Regions Airlines (ERA) association, said: “I’m very confident there will be an agreement.

However, a leading industry tax lawyer warned of “a bit of a scramble” on legal issues around the Brexit process.

McNamara told an aviation law seminar in London hosted by law firm Hill Dickinson: “Nobody expects you will suddenly not be able to fly, just as nobody expects the phone lines to go dead or the Channel Tunnel to be bricked up.”

But he warned: “The posturing has to stop. Airlines need certainty – legal certainty, operational certainty.”

“There is a lot of posturing going on at the moment, on both sides, and it needs to stop. This is not just a UK problem. It’s a European problem. Everyone in aviation wants to preserve the status quo.”

Tui Group head of regulatory affairs Eddie Redfern agreed, saying: “We want as far as possible to see the status quo retained. We need to keep in place as much as possible of what we have. But it will be a political decision.”

Redfern expressed concern at the loss of Britain’s influence in Brussels, saying: “We’re a steadying influence.” He said the Tui group was “worried about where things go in Europe without that influence”.

Lawyer Iain Donaldson, a partner at Hill Dickinson, said: “There is no time to change 7,600 [EU] regulations in two years.  We have to carry everything forward. But that doesn’t quite work.

“The UK’s Great Repeal Bill will carry over all [EU] legislation at the time of Britain’s exit [from the EU].”

However, he said: “A lot of the law is interpretive and we’ll end up with law as it was at the date of transfer. The EU doesn’t want that. It wants subsequent European Court of Justice [ECJ] decisions on how the law should apply accepted [by Britain].”

Donaldson forecast “a bit of a scramble”. He said: “We’re the disruptive passenger in Europe for the next few years.”

The industry wants certainty, he said: “But doubt will be compounded. Will the UK courts be influenced by the decisions of the ECJ after the transfer [of EU law into UK law]?”

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