Industry leaders welcomed the UK government’s White Paper on ‘The Future Relationship between the UK and the EU’, published on Thursday.
The document clarifies the government’s commitment “to explore options for maintaining [a] liberalised Air Transport Agreement” with the EU.
It notes: “There is a precedent for this within the EU-Canada Air Services Agreement which provides for the possibility of fully liberalised access subject to a sufficiently open bilateral approach to ownership and control.”
The White Paper also commits the government to “seek participation” in the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), recognising that the UK will need to pay to be a member while losing voting rights.
It notes that Switzerland, as a non-EU member, already has a similar arrangement.
The White Paper also pledges “close cooperation on air traffic management” and “close collaboration on aviation security”.
The Airport Operators Association (AOA) welcomed the proposal to seek an aviation agreement “that matches as closely as possible today’s traffic rights and aviation regulation”.
However, AOA chief executive Karen Dee said: “It is vital both sides now finalise the Withdrawal Agreement and enable its early ratification. This will provide consumers and businesses with the necessary confidence about future arrangements.”
UKinbound chairman Mark McVay also welcomed proposals which “recognise and support the significant contribution tourism makes to the UK economy”, but he warned: “There remains a lot of work to be done on this.”
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of the Abta travel association, noted: “The White Paper provides some much-needed clarity on the government’s thinking [and] it’s good to see the government recognise many of the main priorities Abta has been highlighting. However, further clarity is needed.
“It is also important to remember this is a two-sided negotiation, and the EU will have their own ideas on what a future relationship should look like.”
The White Paper confirms the government’s desire to establish a free trade area for goods with the EU.
This would include a ‘Facilitated Customs Arrangement’ which would see the UK apply the EU’s tariffs and trade policy for “goods intended for the EU” while applying “its own tariffs and trade policy” on goods for UK consumption.
It would sit alongside “new arrangements for services” which make up 79% of the UK economy. Tourism falls within this latter category.
The paper acknowledges: “There will be more barriers to the UK’s access to the EU market [in services] than today.”
It provides a level of detail on the potential implications for travel.
“The UK proposes reciprocal visa-free travel arrangements to enable UK and EU citizens to continue to travel freely for tourism.
“The Government wants UK and EU nationals to continue to be able to use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).”
However, it also confirms: “Free movement of people will end as the UK leaves the EU. Details of the UK’s future immigration system will be set out in due course.
“Future immigration arrangements will set out how those from the EU and elsewhere can apply to come and work in the UK.
“[But] any future mobility arrangements will be consistent with the ending of free movement, respecting the UK’s control of its borders and the Government’s objective to control and reduce net migration.”
In the light of this, the White Paper proposes “a new framework” on borders that “respects the UK’s control of its borders” but “enables UK and EU citizens to continue to travel to each other’s countries”.
It proposes “streamlined border arrangements” along the lines of the Registered Traveller Scheme already in place with the US and Japan, suggesting: “The UK wants to agree reciprocal arrangements with the EU that ensure smooth passage for UK nationals when they travel to the EU on business or on holiday.”
The UK will also explore “whether to apply the electronic travel authorities to each other’s nationals”.
However, the document states: “Tourists and business visitors should not routinely have to face questions about the purpose of their visit.”
The White Paper promises “to commit to maintain reciprocal high levels of consumer protection” and no change to employment laws.
It proposes “accommodating the role” of the European Court of Justice “as the interpreter of EU rules through a joint reference procedure”.
The aim will now be to conclude negotiations by the autumn.
The document states: “The UK’s negotiating team will now engage with the EU’s at pace.
“Once the UK and EU have reached agreement on the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Framework, there will be a debate in the UK Parliament and European Parliament.
“The UK and the EU have a shared ambition to agree both documents by October.”
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