Senior representatives of the UK aerospace industry, including Airbus, appear provisionally content with the country’s proposed relationship with the European Aviation Safety Agency following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
The framework withdrawal agreement, which outlines the post-Brexit relationship, states simply that the two sides will “explore the possibility of co-operation” between UK authorities and agencies including EASA.
“In this context, the UK will consider aligning with [European] Union rules in relevant areas,” it adds.
It says the UK and EU should strive to maintain “high standards” of aviation safety and security, including through “close co-operation” between EASA and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority.
While UK prime minister Theresa May had mentioned the possibility of associate EASA membership, during a speech in March, the framework agreement appears to stop short of such an arrangement.
But a cross-party parliamentary committee on industrial strategy heard on 28 November that the UK could still potentially have influence within EASA despite a lack of formal membership.
Paul Everitt, chief executive of aerospace trade organisation ADS, told the committee that most of the “detailed work” within EASA is carried out by working groups.
“We’d always prefer a seat for the government at the table – it gives us extra reassurance that there’s always going to be someone in the room pulling for you,” he said.
But he added that the organisation was “comfortable” with the withdrawal agreement, and its reference to EASA, which gave “sufficient confidence” regarding a continuing relationship.
“Again, it’s not what it is today,” he stressed. “But it will minimise disruption as we go forward.”
Royal Aeronautical Society president Simon Henley echoed Everitt’s point about needing to ensure that the UK had involvement in the working groups, highlighting that the UK might only be invited to sit at “particular tables” to discuss matters of “direct interest” to the country.
“It’s not necessarily automatic,” he told the committee.
Airbus UK senior vice-president Katherine Bennett stated that the company was “comfortable that the process is going to work, at the moment”.
“It’s not ideal not to have a place at the top table,” she said. But she said that Airbus’s priority, in relation to EASA, was focused on delivering aircraft to customers, and she pointed out that Airbus has a strong “footprint representation” within other EU member states.
“It’s international regulation, global regulation, that’s more important for our industry,” she added.