UK aviation chiefs criticise decision to pull out of European safety agency after Brexit

Industry body warns Grant Shapps’ plan will risk UK companies’ access to global markets

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Saturday 07 March 2020 13:17
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Brexit briefing: How long until the end of the transition period?

The aerospace industry has reacted with concern to an announcement from transport secretary Grant Shapps that the UK will leave the EU’s aviation safety regime as a result of Brexit.

Mr Shapps said the UK will leave the European Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) when the Brexit transition period comes to an end on 31 December, switching responsibility for aircraft certification and safety regulation to Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

But industry body ADS said that staying in Easa was “the best option” for keeping UK companies competitive and ensuring their access to global export markets.

Chief executive Paul Everitt said he was “disappointed” with Mr Shapps’ approach.

Speaking to Aviation Week Network during a visit to Washington DC on Friday, Mr Shapps said: “We will leave Easa. A lot of the expertise they have is UK expertise, in fact. A lot of the key leading lights were Brits.

“The powers will revert to the CAA, who are probably one of the world’s leading regulators and the expertise will need to come home to do that, but we’ll do it in a gradual way.”

He added: “Over a period of time we’ll be wanting to develop our own certifications. One of the things we’ll want to do is be particularly forward-leaning in technology and automation.

“We’ll make sure our legislative framework is in a great place to enable those kinds of organisations to excel in the UK market.”

In response to Mr Shapps’ announcement, Mr Everitt said: “We have been clear that continued participation in Easa is the best option to maintain the competitiveness of our £36bn aerospace industry and our access to global export markets.

“UK influence in Easa contributes to raising standards in global aviation, supports collaboration with our international partners, and helps make our industry attractive to the investment it needs to be home to the development of a new generation of advanced aircraft technology.

“Government had promised it would consider harmonisation where it is in the UK interest, and will be led by the evidence on the future of aviation safety regulation. We are disappointed that it has not taken a more ambitious approach. It is essential that it works with us to deliver a regime that does not put jobs at risk in an industry that employs 111,000 people in highly skilled roles across the UK.”

ADS represents more than 1,100 UK businesses in the aerospace, defence, security and space sectors.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Being a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency is not compatible with the UK having genuine economic and political independence.

“We will maintain world-leading safety standards for industry, with the Civil Aviation Authority taking over these responsibilities, and will continue to work with colleagues in the EU to establish a new regulatory relationship.”

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