Despite Brexit, European regulation will remain crucial for the aerospace industry. EASA and REACH in particular are both critical for businesses, and achieving a smooth transition while keeping to the existing regulations as close as possible will be the best outcome for business.
The Aviation slides published by Task Force 50 in December lay out a number of possible options, from membership of EASA and a close aviation relationship along the lines of Norway (within the Single European Aviation Area and enjoying all nine ‘freedoms of the skies’ that we currently enjoy), to a detached relationship where the freedom to and from the EU would be almost the only point to be on offer – and certainly no participation in EASA. This would be a serious blow for an industry which has been integrated at a European level for most of the last twenty years.
However, we are confident that our position is understood at the highest levels of government all the way up to the Prime Minister. Indeed, the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, reiterated today that the Government would like us to stay part of EASA and ‘sees no reason why that can’t continue’. What we really need now, though, is for negotiations actually to begin.
Similarly, REACH is another serious regulatory issue, although this has not received as much coverage as it deserved. The EU Task Force 50 slides emphasise that the UK would be outside REACH, would have no access to the ECHA database, would have no involvement in ECHA rule-making and have to accept EU REACH for the purpose of all exports into the EU. This is not the ideal outcome.
The Government is leaning more towards the creation of a UK chemicals agency – £5.8 million was already set aside in January for the creation of its IT systems – and not participating in EU REACH. If this is the outcome, then the UK REACH should mirror EU REACH, with both the UK and EU agreeing to mutual recognition of all approvals and registrations covered by the existing system. Nothing less will be required to prevent supply chain disruption – or even complete breakdown altogether.
Both slides recognise that under the draft transition agreement, the UK would remain within both of these bodies for the duration of the transition (although it is important we continue to make the argument that the UK should still be involved in rule-making). Yet the slides also establish that without a negotiated deal, the UK will be leaving the umbrella of European regulation and rulemaking bodies.
Fundamentally, a good deal for British – and European – industry would be for the UK to be a member of both EASA and EU REACH, with influence in both. If this is not possible, we the government will have to concentrate on maintaining regulatory convergence, and on the continuation of existing EU approvals for our aerospace and chemicals industries.
It is crucial that Government provide the assurances industry requires. We are hopeful that today’s speech by the Prime Minister will lead to greater clarity, and presage a good outcome to the next stage of the negotiations later this month.