UK to withdraw from EU aviation safety regulator, Shapps says

Transport secretary says senior figures will gradually return to UK as regulatory powers revert to CAA

The UK is to withdraw from the European Union aviation safety regulator (EASA) after the Brexit transition period, Grant Shapps has confirmed.

The transport secretary said many of the most senior figures at the organisation headquartered in Cologne, Germany were British and that they would gradually return to the UK throughout this year as regulatory powers reverted to the Civil Aviation Authority.

“As you would expect from an independent nation, we can’t be subject to the rules and laws made by somebody else, so we can’t accept rules from the EU commission and we can’t accept rulings in terms of court cases from the European court of justice or anybody else, any more than the US would,” he told Aviation Week in Washington.

“A lot of the expertise [EASA has] is UK expertise, in fact … A lot of the key leading lights were Brits.”

The Tory MP added that the UK would seek to be “particularly forward-leaning” in the technology and automation sectors. “We’ll make sure our legislative framework is in a great place to enable those kinds of organisations to excel in the UK market,” he said.

The aerospace trade body ADS, which represents more than 1,100 UK businesses, said the decision could put high-skilled jobs at risk.

“We have been clear that continued participation in EASA is the best option to maintain the competitiveness of our £36bn aerospace industry and our access to global export markets,” the chief executive, Paul Everitt, said.

He added that British influence in EASA helps raise global aviation standards and fosters collaboration with international partners. “Government had promised it would consider harmonisation where it is in the UK interest and will be led by the evidence on the future of aviation safety regulation,” he said.

“We are disappointed that it has not taken a more ambitious approach. It is essential that it works with us to deliver a regime that does not put jobs at risk in an industry that employs 111,000 people in highly skilled roles across the UK.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Being a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency is not compatible with the UK having genuine economic and political independence. We will maintain world-leading safety standards for industry, with the Civil Aviation Authority taking over these responsibilities, and will continue to work with colleagues in the EU to establish a new regulatory relationship.”

The spokesperson added that the EU had been clear the UK would no longer be able to participate in the EASA but that the bloc had indicated a willingness to agree a bilateral aviation safety agreement.

“Given we have broadly the same starting position on aviation safety with the EU, we have an opportunity to provide early certainty to industry on the terms of our new regulatory relationship,” they said.

On its website, EASA has said the UK will not take part in any decision-shaping activities during the transition period, which ends on 31 December. However, it can be extended by up to two years if the EU and UK agree jointly on a delay.

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Mattha Busby

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