The UK government has confirmed easyJet’s status as a UK airline, even if it is European Union (EU)-owned, according to comments made by easyJet CFO Andrew Findlay.

The comments came as the UK prepares to exit the EU (Brexit), triggering UK and EU airlines to review their ownership structures.

“To operate in Europe, you have to be majority EU-owned,” Findlay said on a recent easyJet webcast. “Obviously, when the UK exits the EU, that will require above 50% ownership by the EU27.”

He added that easyJet is already “very close to that percentage.”

Earlier this year, the airline’s shareholders agreed to give easyJet the power to limit the ownership of its stock by non-EU shareholders, so that the company remains EU-owned and controlled at all times after the UK has left the EU, allowing easyJet to continue to fly between and within EU countries post-Brexit.

“In the UK, to operate, you need to be a UK airline. We have agreement from the secretary of state that we are a UK airline as well, even though we may be EU-owned, so we’ve got all bases covered. That’s the plan. It is complex, but we’ve covered every angle.”

ATW understands the UK’s exact policy is still under negotiation, but the government is looking to support business and consumer interests post-Brexit.

“Aviation is crucial to the UK’s economy and we are committed to getting the best deal possible for Britain. The government will ensure that our aviation sector continues to thrive and that passengers and businesses benefit from competitive fares and international connections,” a UK Department for Transport spokesperson said.

From a safety regulation perspective, to mitigate the impact of Brexit, easyJet will operate from two air operator’s certificates (AOCs)—one in the UK and one in Austria—in addition to its existing Swiss AOC.

“What we will have is a central group operating structure that will provide services to both of those AOCs,” Findlay said, adding that both the UK and Austrian CAAs have approved this structure.

Victoria Moores