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The Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020. This briefing provides analysis of the impacts on the aviation and road haulage sectors at the end of the transition period whether the UK and EU enter into an agreement or not.

A Brexit deal or mini transport side deals?

After the transition period, future transport arrangements may be covered by a comprehensive trade deal. At the time of writing, the Government and EU has agreed to “go the extra mile […] to see whether an agreement can even at this late stage be reached”.

In the absence of such a deal the EU and the UK are reportedly considering a transport mini-deal in order to avoid potentially significant transport disruption. Contingency measures have also been proposed by the EU in the event of no deal at all.

Aviation after the transition period

Both the UK Government and the EU have stated their aim to ensure continued air transport connectivity after Brexit as well as to agree cooperative aviation safety arrangements.

Without a deal, or mini-deal, at the end of the transition period:

  • flights could technically be grounded as UK-licensed airlines will lose their right to fly to and from the EU and between the remaining EU Member States.
  • the UK will no longer participate in the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will take on additional regulatory functions previously performed by the EASA.
  • existing design certificates issued by the EASA to UK-based companies before the end of the transition period would become invalid in the EU.

However, the EU has published contingency measures designed to ensure basic air connectivity and safety for a short period of time in the event of no-deal. The UK Government has previously indicated it would agree to reciprocate such measures.

Road haulage after the transition period

EU law has established a regulatory framework for road haulage in three main policy areas: access to the occupation of road transport operator; access to the international haulage market within the EU; and social and safety rules for drivers.

Currently, drivers of lorries and goods vehicles must have a standard international operator’s licence along with a community licence for journeys to, from or through the EU and EEA. In the event of no deal, UK-issued community licences would no longer be accepted. Under these circumstances, the multilateral quota system of the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) would become the only available legal framework on which the continuation of road freight transport services could be based.

Without an agreement, from 1 January 2021 EU Member States will impose EU third country controls on UK goods. This would mean all freight that travels to the border without the correct documentation would be stopped before boarding, or on arrival at Member State ports.

The Commission has published proposals for targeted contingency measures to prepare for a possible no-deal scenario. This would provide basic connectivity with regard to both road freight and road passenger transport for 6 months, provided the UK assures the same to EU hauliers. The Transport Secretary has previously indicated the UK Government would look to reciprocate on such measures.

Channel Tunnel operations

After the end of the transition period, absent a new UK/France agreement, the governance of the Tunnel will revert to the Treaty of Canterbury. If that happens the EU has said that the operation of the Channel Tunnel would need to be suspended. The UK Government disputes this; Transport Minister Rachel Maclean told the European Scrutiny Committee, “Whether we have a deal or whether we do not have a deal, I am very confident that we will see smooth operation of the tunnel.”

Further, at the end of November 2020, the Commission published a new proposal extending the validity of UK-issued safety licences for nine months to provide enough time for the negotiation and conclusion of a cross border agreement between France and the UK.


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