The UK has reciprocated a unilateral offer by the EU to protect flying rights in the event of a no-deal Brexit, a move that will guarantee that flights between the United Kingdom and the EU will not be interrupted during the 12-month transitional period after Britain officially withdraws from the bloc.

The agreement covers traffic rights but also extends to the ownership and control, as well as the leasing, of aircraft.

Air services between the UK and Eu are based on a mutual operational agreement between the two sides. These can be issued on a case-by-case basis for individual flights, but for most scheduled flights the basis for issuing such permissions is set out in a bilateral or multilateral air service agreement (ASA) between the two parties. These agreements provide airlines with the conditions under which they will be permitted to operate scheduled international air services.

As an EU country, the UK is part of the internal market for air services. This means that any airline licensed by an EU country, and therefore adhering to common regulations, is entitled to operate any route within the EU without the advance permission of individual national authorities. These entitlements also extend to Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway through their membership of the European Economic Area.

The rights for airlines to operate air services over EU or UK territory are established by a longstanding worldwide treaty, the International Air Services Transit Agreement, to which the UK and almost all EU countries are signatories. This agreement also establishes the right to land for ‘non-traffic’ purposes such as refuelling or maintenance.

The UK has independently negotiated 111 bilateral ASAs with countries all over the world, including China, India and Brazil. There are a further 17 non-EU countries with which air services to the UK are provided for by virtue of our EU membership: Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Canada, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Jordan, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, and the United States.

The EU unilateral concession means that even if the UK leaves the EU with no agreement in place, Britain will maintain its right to operate air services in the EU without seeking advance permission. By the same token, EU-licensed airlines will continue to operate within the United Kingdom.