The European Regions Airline Association (ERA) has urged the European Commission to ensure continuity of services in the aftermath of the UK leaving the European Union (EU), or Brexit, on March 29, 2019.

The ERA, which represents 50 of Europe’s regional airlines, has written to the Commission highlighting the need to prevent serious harm to European connectivity and urging both sides to reach a solution as soon as possible that will allow airlines to continue operating as they do today.

Although both the UK and EU have said they want to keep services running post-Brexit, the increasingly messy British political situation—in which Prime Minister Theresa May seems unlikely to get her withdrawal agreement through the UK legislature—has resulted in renewed anxiety among airlines. If no settlement is reached, the UK could crash out of the EU in a “hard Brexit.”

While for many industries that would mean an automatic reversion to Word Trade Organization (WTO) rules, no such WTO framework exists for the airline sector.

ERA believes a “no-deal” outcome could have disastrous consequences for the aviation industry, including the grounding of many flights across the EU and the UK. Additionally, the association believes there would be a significant impact on many other areas of aviation, such as air services agreements, aviation safety and security, border management and the environment.

“Now is the time to definitively confirm a reciprocal comprehensive agreement that protects the established pillars of European aviation,” ERA director general Montserrat Barriga said.

“ERA’s position on Brexit remains to ensure open and free traffic rights for all EU and UK carriers between the EU and the UK, that EASA regulations continue to apply to UK carriers and that EU and UK carriers can continue to freely lease aircraft to each other.”

ERA president Andrew Kelly added: “Even if there is a deal, there is a lack of clarity about EU ownership rules that could potentially ground big and small airlines alike, unless there is some form of moratorium. Yet, we get the sense from the politicians and officials that on the morning of March 30, the aviation industry will wake up and go to work as usual, even if there is a hard Brexit. It won’t, it can’t, and the UK and EU need to wake up to that fact now, before it’s too late.”

Alan Dron