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The truth behind the Brexit negotiations

Since several months the government of the United Kingdom and the European Commission are negotiating Brexit, meaning – for the first time in history – a country using Article 50 and leaving the EU. After the first rounds and rather general debates, we have now entered the phase, where the details are thrown at the negotiating table. For many of today’s EU citizens these details are far away. For aviation & its employees they are becoming a shocking reality.

Just a few days after UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the UK is exploring the options of staying in EASA after Brexit, the European Commission took a rather radical approach. In a note, UK pilots were advised to get in contact with their national authorities because their European pilot licenses might lose their validity soon.

Aviation – like many other sectors – has now been taken hostage by the Brexit negotiations

The reality is that hundreds of UK pilots are based in & flying out of many EU countries, while at the same time many pilots from other EU countries are based in the UK and/or flying for UK companies. The possible personal consequences for all these colleagues are breath-taking: their licenses are fundamental for their employment – without these, they will not be able to exercise their profession. Companies might lose traffic rights and consequently they will require less pilots. Connectivity issues might not only develop between the UK & the EU but also among EU countries or on routes to third countries, because those flights are operated under a UK AOC.

Today, no one knows what possible solutions might be developed. But we know that aviation – like many other sectors – has now been taken hostage by the Brexit negotiations. As a key industry – and one that many European citizens directly relate to and depend on for their holidays or work – it will be one of the heavy-weights that are now thrown into the debate – unnecessarily! Has anybody thought about the thousands of employees that are operating this industry? Obviously not.

Brexit is the impossible attempt to divide something that is no longer dividable

Brexit is the impossible attempt to divide something that is no longer dividable. Too many links have developed in this industry to have a quick & easy divorce. Not only since the foundation of the EU aviation has been built on a world without frontiers. Common technical & training standards have been created, long before other industries thought about transnational standards. Companies on both sides – UK & the rest of the EU – are building their future on the reliability of these.

But not only companies are in an urgent need for reliable solutions: people, couples, families want exactly the same – they don’t want to worry unnecessarily about the validity of a license or a work permit. As citizens of today’s EU they have rights – and those should not be bargained off at a negotiating table – unnecessarily!

by Capt. Dirk Polloczek, ECA President