Regulatory alignment a key Brexit issue for aerospace firms like Storm Aviation Group
Despite next week's general election putting the Brexit process on hold for now, the aerospace industry remains concerned over the issue of regulatory alignment with the EU and the ability of the UK to bring its products to the European market once Brexit has been finalised.
The ADS industry body wrote a letter to Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove back in October, seeking reassurances that the UK will continue to be a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency once a Brexit deal is enacted.
The ADS warned in that correspondence that alignment with Europe was ‘vital’ for the sector, adding that 'regulatory divergence would pose a serious risk’ to the aerospace industry, force higher costs and disruption, and an ‘inability to shape safety rule making’ which would make bringing UK technology to market ‘more difficult'.
The letter was written following concerns that the new deal negotiated between the EU and prime minister Boris Johnson abandoned commitments to adhere to EU regulations after Brexit.
Under the previous deal negotiated by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, the accompanying political declaration said that the UK would ‘consider aligning with EU rules in relevant areas’ as part of the ‘level playing field agreement’.
Briefing Parliament on her deal, May previously said that this commitment would mean negotiating a form of UK membership to the EASA and other EU regulatory institutions which determine the safety standards and technical specifications for the European single market. Aligning with regulations in this manner is widely seen as an important issue to maintain the continuity of industrial regulatory cooperation with Europe and prevent trade checks coming into force.
One business operating within the sector, Storm Aviation Group, is still operating in line with EASA standards and accreditations according to CEO Thomas Buckley, who conceded that the future of regulation after Brexit remains entirely uncertain.
Speaking to The Parliamentary Review, Buckley said: “We maintain aircraft to EASA standards and accreditations.
“A lot of countries recognise EASA requirements.”
However, Boris Johnson favours a new free-trade agreement with the EU which would see the UK set its own regulatory standards, hence the industry’s concerns over alignment and the impact deviation may have on the sector.
Yet, rather than hesitate in anticipation of what might come to pass, Buckley said that Storm Aviation has been forced to take action in order to brace itself for impending changes to regulation and mitigate for any risks, come what may of the government’s strategy.
Buckley said: “Brexit is unavoidable for the UK aviation industry and the road ahead is far from clear; we have acted promptly to mitigate associated risks as best we can.
“Considering their [the EASA’s] nature as a European body, the future is uncertain in our industry. A lot of countries recognise EASA requirements, but the future depends, in part, on how open the communication channels are.
“As a result, we are striving to plan for every possible eventuality – whether or not we remain fully governed by EASA standards, accept and recognise EASA without fully embracing them or decide to operate from Europe under our German entity, we have an all-encompassing slew of plans in place to cope with whatever the future brings.
“Regardless of whatever Brexit agreement is finalised, we will continue to deliver the quality and excellence we’re known for now, while remaining ultimately profitable.”
In response to the ADS’ letter of concern over regulatory alignment, the government said that it would pursue agreements where they were necessary, hinting that the future remains uncertain.
It is clear in the eyes of the wider industry is that maintaining regulatory alignment with Europe is important for continual cooperation and frictionless trade, yet while the future is undetermined, businesses can adopt the stance of Storm Aviation to prepare themselves for all eventualities in the short-term.
Storm Aviation Group is part of the larger Avia Solutions Group and provides support to over 40 major airlines.