42.As outlined above, the ability of the UK to prove the safety and airworthiness of aircraft and to export goods both to the EU and global markets is predicated on EASA certification. As things stand, if the UK leaves the EU at the end of the Article 50 notice period without a deal being struck, it will also leave EASA. ADS outlined to the Committee how disruptive that scenario would be for all parties:
Our working assumption in those cases is that we have no relationship with European Aviation Safety Agency … . In those circumstances, our regulatory regime is effectively non-functioning, because whilst all the people and all the processes are the same, if there is no mechanism for recognition of it, effectively it has no value or validity. We cannot [sell anything]… there is a broader range of issues around the… people doing the maintenance of those aircraft. If they are not recognised as being appropriate people to do that work, then even if they have done the work, the aircraft will not be regarded as fit to fly. It is chaotic because we do not know exactly what arrangements may or may not be put in place in order to try to bridge that gap.
43.ADS told the Committee that the UK’s CAA does not currently have the capability to take over the functions of EASA, and that “We have estimated a five- to 10-year period in order to even begin that process.” Strikingly, the chief executive of the CAA has said that it is not undertaking any preparatory work for taking over the responsibilities of EASA, since “it would be misleading to suggest that’s a viable option”.
44.It is clear that leaving the EU and EASA with no deal would be highly costly and disruptive to the UK aerospace sector and aviation, as well as its EU counterparts. Given that no alternative arrangements are being developed, the Government should rule out this possibility.
45.Outside of EASA, the UK would at some point need to reassume direct responsibility for product certification in aerospace. Based on the past experience of phased transition from national regulators in the EU to EASA over 2002 to 2008, “a reversal of this process would require significant time and planning, and almost inevitably pose disruptions and risk to the aviation industry during a transition.” Since the CAA is unlikely to be in a position to take over responsibility from EASA for several years, a transition arrangement would be required. The solution offered by respondents to this inquiry is that “UK CAA certification tasks and oversight be contracted out to EASA.” Special arrangements would also be needed with the FAA and other global regulators.
46.In order to avoid double certification, the UK aerospace sector would eventually require BASAs with the EU, the United States and other major aerospace markets. Such agreements would require mechanisms for harmonisation, likely similar to the Certification Management Team currently composed of the EU, US, Brazilian and Canadian regulators. For the same reasons discussed above, it will likely remain in the UK’s national interest to maintain a high degree of alignment with the European and global regulatory regimes in aerospace even from outside EASA.
47.If the UK is to make a managed departure from EASA, it would require a transition period in which special arrangements are made with the EASA, the US Federal Aviation Authority and other global regulators. The Civil Aviation Authority would need to undergo a major investment and recruitment programme if it is to take over the functions of EASA at some point in the future, and Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements with mutual recognition agreements would need to be negotiated with the EU, US and other major markets. Given the complexities involved, this transition may need to last beyond the two years that the Prime Minister has said is likely to be appropriate for the economy-wide implementation period. This disruptive and costly process is unlikely to result in any significant divergence in regulation. Continued membership of EASA is clearly preferable.
60 European Scrutiny Committee, , 21 February 2018
62 European Scrutiny Committee, , 21 February 2018
63 General Aviation Manufacturers’ Association, ()
64 General Aviation Manufacturers’ Association, ()
65 Prime Minister’s Office, , 22 September 2017
Published: 19 March 2018