What aviation regulations apply in the UK after Brexit?

As I write, in September 2020, the UK has left the European Union. We are in a transition period. Nothing seems to have changed but what regulations apply and what happens in 2021 when the transition period ends? Will the UK revert to the ‘Air Navigation Order’ or will there be a desperate scramble to write a new set of regulations?

Domestic Law

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 incorporated “direct EU legislation” into UK domestic law with effect from the time when the UK left the EU. This happened on 31 January 2020. Any EU regulation relating to aviation (and everything else) that was in place immediately prior to Brexit is now a UK law. Much of what is written in EU regulation won’t make sense after the end of the transition period (e.g. references to the role of EASA and the European Commission) so all of these regulations have to be edited. This editing takes place by means of statutory instruments (SI) made by the British government. The SI relevant to pilots and aircraft operators is SI 2019 645The Aviation Safety (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019”.

SI 2019 645 lists all the changes to the previous EU regulations that will come into effect in the UK at the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. The changes replace references to EASA with the CAA and references to the Commission with the Secretary of State.

Mutual Recognition

European regulations mandate mutual recognition of licences and certificates between the EASA States but not from “third countries”. It has been decided that the UK will no longer be an “EASA State” so UK licences and certificates will not be recognised in the EU after the transition period.

In the UK SI 2019 645 deletes all references to mutual recognition of licences and certificates from the other European States.

The UK and EU will both continue to follow the Chicago Convention which requires licences and certificates issued by the state in which an aircraft is registered to be recognised by other states. I can fly a UK registered aircraft if I hold a licence issued by the UK CAA, but I can’t fly an aircraft registered in any other state with a UK licence; similarly a UK ATO can train someone who holds a UK licence but not someone who holds a licence from one of the EU countries.

The UK CAA have said that they will issue validations allowing pilots who hold licences issued by the EASA States to operate UK-registered aircraft, at least for a limited period. My guess is that other European states will not reciprocate.

The future

When the negotiations between the UK and the EU are concluded we may have a better picture of what UK regulations will look like in the future.

Brexit means that the UK will not be obliged to keep regulations aligned with the EU. Some say that this provides the opportunity to be more agile, allow innovation and stimulate UK industry. Others point out that the UK aviation industry is so intertwined with the EU that it may be better to stay close to EU rules.

Time will tell.