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MPs: aviation faces £1.5bn extra costs if not harmonised with EU

A House of Commons select committee has warned that any additional delays or bureaucracy at the UK's borders with the EU could add £1.5 billion a year to costs for the aviation industry.19 Mar 2018

In a report on the impact of Brexit on the aviation sector, the Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee said the best way for the aerospace sector to take advantage of global growth opportunities post-Brexit was to maintain harmonisation and not diverge from international standards.

The committee said the UK should maintain its membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which gives access to other global markets through the bilateral agreements in place between EASA and its counterparts in the US, Canada and Brazil.

“The globalised nature of aviation regulation means that there is little or nothing to be gained for the UK from regulatory divergence in the foreseeable future,” said the committee, adding that it welcomed a recent announcement by UK prime minister Theresa May saying the government was seeking continued EASA membership.

If the UK did not remain an EASA member, the MPs said the government needed to secure continued safety agreements with other nations. Although tariff barriers after Brexit were not a concern thanks to the UK's participation in the WTO Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft, the WTO agreement meant the aviation sector would not benefit from free trade deals with other countries.

The process of trying to make new arrangements with global aviation regulators would be “disruptive and costly”, according to the committee, meaning continued membership of EASA was “clearly preferable”. The report revealed that the Civil Aviation Authority was working on the assumption that the UK would in fact remain a member of the agency. 

The MPs said the government should also try to maintain the UK's membership of collaborative research programmes within the EU.

The report said immigration was another important issue and that the government had to reach an immigration deal that allowed the aviation sector to access the skills it needed.

Closely-aligned customs arrangements were also key to avoid the sector incurring significant extra costs and time.

The committee said: “Overall, we conclude that, in the case of aerospace, there is no trade-off between close harmonisation with the EU and access to markets beyond the EU. Instead, the two goals are complementary.”

The UK government began work last July on a new aviation strategy. A consultation closed in October and it is currently analysing the evidence submitted.

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