With the U.K. poised to formally notify its intention to leave the EU, European airports association ACI Europe has voiced its concerns about the prospects of ongoing uncertainty over the rules that will come to govern aviation between the U.K. and the remaining EU Member States (EU27).
The association is concerned that talks will initially focus on agreeing exit terms for the U.K., before they eventually come to define the new relationship between the U.K. and the EU27 as of 2019. According to Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe: “This implies that the aviation industry will be left in the dark for many more months to come about what will happen. Unless quickly resolved, this uncertainty will end up constraining route network development for airports, ultimately affecting air connectivity for their communities. This is due to the fact that airline route planning requires both long lead times and legal certainty.”
ACI Europe also draws attention to the fact that there is no guarantee that an agreement will be reached on exit terms within the two-year deadline. Thus, the U.K. could exit the EU without the terms of its new relationship with the bloc being clearly defined, which could result in market access falling back on more restrictive bilateral provisions between the U.K. and individual EU27 States.
Jankovec says that “adequate contingencies need to be established promptly in case the U.K. would exit the EU without any agreement on its future relationship with the bloc”.
ACI Europe highlights the interdependence of the U.K. and EU aviation markets, noting that:
• more than 1 in every 2 passengers (53.5%) handled by U.K. airports are flying to/from the EU27;
• more than 1 in 10 passengers (11.5%) handled by EU27 airports are flying to/from the U.K.
U.K. airports are on average far more dependent on air traffic to/from the rest of the EU than EU27 airports on air traffic to/from the U.K. However, there are significant variations within the EU27 in terms of exposure to air traffic to/from the U.K. The markets most reliant on air traffic to/from the U.K. are: Ireland (39.2%), the Slovak Republic (33.2%), Cyprus (31.3), Malta (27.9%), Poland (20.2%), Lithuania (19.8%) and Spain (17.3%).