Aerospace industry seeks reassurances over EU regulatory alignment post-Brexit
Key aerospace firms have aired concerns over regulatory alignment post-Brexit and the ability to bring UK products to market in line with European safety standards.
Aerospace manufacturers are seeking government assurance that the UK will remain a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency under any Brexit deal.
A letter from the ADS aerospace industry body, addressed to cabinet minister Michael Gove and Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay, has been handed to the BBC.
The letter requests government "reassurance" that the UK will remain a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency and can guarantee “alignment with EU chemicals regulations” which it says are “vital” to the aerospace industry.
The letter reads that the ADS had "received assurances from the previous [May] government that the UK would seek to continue membership of or retain participation and influence in EU agencies such as EASA".
It adds that "regulatory divergence would pose a serious risk" to the industry and would result in "huge new costs and disruptions to many of our member companies”.
There are also concerns in the letter that the UK may be left limited in its capacity to influence future “safety rule making", rendering it "much more difficult to bring UK technology to market” in line with European standards.
The political declaration attached to the existing withdrawal agreement that was negotiated by former prime minister Theresa May outlines that in the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU, there would be continued cooperation between the UK and three European regulatory bodies, namely the European Aviation Safety Agency, the European Chemical Agency and the European Medicines Agency.
The political declaration reads: "in this context the UK will consider aligning with [European] Union rules in relevant areas”.
After the initial round of Brexit negotiations was completed prior to the three meaningful votes, May said in an address to parliament that the political declaration would mean negotiating a form of UK membership with these European safety bodies.
This would guarantee UK influence in setting out technical specifications and safety standards that would apply across the single market despite the UK’s departure from it.
This continual membership and alignment with European standards are widely regarded within industry as a vital element of maintaining industrial regulatory cooperation and preventing the added disruption of trade checks.
However, Boris Johnson’s government is known to favour a new free-trade agreement with the EU, which would see the UK setting its own regulatory standards.
This has sparked concern within industry that the assurances provided by the May administration will be overridden in a future deal.
A government spokesperson said: "The UK is getting ready for Brexit on October 31. We want a deal, but we must be prepared for every eventuality and we have recently announced substantial extra funding to support businesses to get ready.
"The government is seeking a best in class FTA [free trade agreement] drawing on the precedent of existing EU FTA deals.
"We have been clear that we are committed to maintaining high standards after we leave the EU. Where necessary, the government will pursue additional agreements to cover areas outside traditional FTAs, for example, on aviation and civil nuclear cooperation."
Johnson’s cabinet has expressed a desire to remove the “level playing field” element from the political declaration which guarantees alignment with Europe on issues relating to the environment, social issues, labour issues and some tax regulations.
The concern from the incumbent government is that these elements of Theresa May’s deal could weaken the UK’s hand in forging new trade deals with other non-EU countries after Brexit.