The European Commission has released details of its contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit as the countdown to the UK’s exit from the EU hits 100 days.
The news comes after prime minister Theresa May announced she would hold a Parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal during the week of 14 January – one month after she called off the original vote in the face of defeat.
Some MPs still say May’s Withdrawal Agreement leaves too much to chance, with fears that a potential backstop that would see Northern Ireland tied to the EU customs union could be indefinite if no other arrangement is made.
May has been trying to get reassurances from EU leaders that this would not be the case, but the union has said the deal cannot be renegotiated.
The commission’s plans address a number of matters, including the impact on flights between the UK and the EU.
The commission says it has adopted two measures to avoid disruption to air traffic, but warns that these plans “will only ensure basic connectivity and in no means replicate the significant advantages of membership of the Single European Sky”.
The measures are also contingent on the UK offering a reciprocal arrangement in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
They include a proposal for a regulation to ensure a 12-month provision of “certain air services” between the EU and UK from 30 March 2019, as well as a regulation to extend the validity of aviation safety licences for nine months.
UK operators could also be allowed to carry goods into the EU for nine months, provided the UK offers equivalent rights to EU road haulage operators.
The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has been striking deals with individual member countries to ensure airlines can continue to operate across borders, but both the UK and the EU have said it would be in ‘no-one’s interest’ to allow flights to be disrupted.
Welcoming the commission’s plans, transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “We need to study the detail, but any steps to ensure UK hauliers can continue carrying goods into the EU in the event of a no deal is good news, as is ensuring flights are maintained between the UK and EU immediately after Brexit. Whether for business or leisure, travellers can continue to book with confidence.”
The commission is also encouraging the remaining 27 member states and the UK to “take a generous approach to the rights of” citizens living in their respective countries to ensure they can continue residing there after Brexit even if there is no deal in place on 29 March.
However, it has already been announced that although UK citizens will not require visas for visits to the EU of up to 90 days, they will be subject to the new European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), which requires a €7 fee to register before travelling.
The commission is now calling on the European Parliament and the European Council to adopt its plans to ensure they are in place by the Brexit deadline of 29 March.