Major uncertainty continues across the European air transport industry about the impact of the UK’s pending split from the European Union (EU), and clauses on aviation within a new Brexit political declaration provide little reassurance.

In the non-binding joint declaration—a side paper to the formal withdrawal document agreed this week by the EU and the UK—there are brief clauses that reference mutual aspirations for commercial aviation. These include forming a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement to ensure connectivity and market access, and continuing cooperation on aviation safety and security via EASA and the UK Civil Aviation Administration. No details about implementation or timing are given.

The declaration and withdrawal plan need UK Parliamentary approval, with a vote scheduled for Dec. 11. But that outcome is far from certain, keeping open the possibility of a “no-deal Brexit,” which would be the worst-case scenario for aviation.

Discussing the issue during the CAPA World Aviation Outlook Summit in Berlin Nov. 27, industry executives said major uncertainty continues about how Brexit will affect aviation. European Regions Airline Association (ERA) secretary general Montserrat Barriga said ERA members were very concerned about the potential temporary grounding of flights between the EU and the UK in a hard Brexit scenario on March 29, 2019. Barriga cited the example of Luxembourg’s national carrier Luxair, for which the Luxembourg-London route is the most important single market and which has described that scenario as “catastrophic.”

Croon Callaghan Aviation Consulting analyst Jim Callaghan added, “There is no re-engagement with the industry about how to deal with [Brexit] … We are not much further ahead in terms of clarity than we were two years ago.”

Callaghan said there are two camps in the European airline industry. One, led by International Airlines Group CEO Willie Walsh, argues that Brexit will not cause disruptions, while the other group, led by Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, predicts chaos. “The truth probably is in the middle, but we don’t know,” Callaghan said.

He said the UK had not dealt with “some fairly fundamental practical issues” despite the increasing likelihood of a hard Brexit.

Regardless of how the UK leaves the EU, “there is no upside in Brexit for aviation,” Callaghan said.

Callaghan also stressed other travel-related impacts. If a hard border is reinstated between Northern Ireland, which will leave the EU as part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which will remain in the EU, then some 1 million passengers in the North that use Dublin Airport could find that no longer viable because of border controls that could add hours to their journey to the airport. Belfast Airport, however, might benefit.

Jens Flottau, jens.flottau@aviationweek.com