Brace Yourselves: Brexit is Coming

By Diogene De Souza


The oft-quipped ‘Brexit means Brexit’ has been seared into the minds of operators across the UK and Europe, but clarity on what Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union really means in practice has been a long time coming. However, with the world in the grips of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit as an agenda item has slipped further down the list, and we now find ourselves in the final quarter of 2020 with the transition period end date of 31 December 2020 looming. 

What is really changing?

The UK aviation sector will continue to participate in the EASA system until the transition period ends on 31 December 2020. The new relationship between the UK and EU as regards aviation safety is subject to government negotiations, but the CAA website has been updated with information including the handy CAP 1714: Aviation Safety as the UK leaves EASA

The key headline from the document? All EASA certificates, approvals, and licenses in effect on 31 December 2020 for use in the UK aviation system and on UK-registered aircraft will be recognised by the CAA for up to two years.


  • Holders of CAA-issues licenses who wish to fly, maintain, or operate on EU-registered aircraft will need to transfer their licenses over to an EASA member state.
  • Pilots who hold EASA licenses and wish to operate UK-registered aircraft outside the UK will need to seek a validation from the CAA – a validation document will be available on the CAA’s website in December 2020.
  • The CAA will allow engineers/mechanics with valid EASA licenses to maintain UK-registered aircraft for up to two years.

On a broader scale, the CAA’s approvals and oversight will continue to comply with ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and therefore should continue to be recognised on a global basis. Lots more information is available on the CAA’s Brexit microsite. EASA has a counterpart site, but it is not as well populated with information – local aviation authorities in your specific country may have more detail. 

You can also check out the UK Government’s ‘Transition’ page, which also includes a quiz you can take to build a personalised list of actions for you – including personal, family, and work actions. 

Customs Procedures

As with other Brexit topics, nothing materially changes until 01 January 2021, at which point the UK will be outside the EU customs union and single market, should a deal not be struck. While a lot has been said of the various options, the cross-party Institute for Government has an article and a graphic comparing various options and how they could affect the UK.

In one scenario, the UK could strike a deal with the EU which will allow for trade to continue in a similar manner to before – but this is likely to take an amount of negotiation that will exceed the time available in the transition period. In the case of a No-Deal scenario, be prepared for changes to duty/tax-free allowances, implications for VAT, and the potential loss of the ‘Arrivals from the EU’ channel at customs. 

Our friends at Opmas have published a useful article on customs and Temporary Admission (TA) rules, for those operating between the UK and EU. The European Commission also has a Taxation and Customs page that details preparations for the end of the transition period.

Immigration Procedures

As of 01 January 2021, free movement of people between the UK and EU will be suspended, and those EU citizens looking to enter the UK for work will be subject to a new points-based immigration system

With that said, EU/EEA/Swiss citizens will still be able to visit the UK for short term trips up to six months without a visa, and will be able to use an EEA or Swiss National ID to cross the border until 01 October 2021. Our advice? Bring a passport with at least six months validity to avoid any issues. Other countries’ citizens who previously could visit without a visa (US, Australia, NZ, etc) will continue to be able to do so. 

For those EU citizens already in the UK and looking to remain, the EU Settlement Scheme is the route to take; it is free to apply and must be completed before 30 June 2021. If you own or operate a UK-based company that employs EU citizens, it is worth speaking to them about their status, and offering support during what may be an anxiety-inducing time. 

Finally, UK citizens will continue to be able to visit the EU without a visa until 2022, when the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is scheduled to be rolled out. This system is analogous to ESTA in the USA and will allow citizens of certain countries to enter the EU by way of a ‘travel authorisation’, costing EUR 7 per application. 

Certain regulations can (and likely will!) change as we approach the end of the year, so staying on top of press releases and bulletins from your local Civil Aviation Authority will be crucial. If you have a question, or have information to share, Opsgroup members can use our Slack channels! We are a community based on sharing information and resources to help each other – jump in.


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Diogene De Souza

Diogene De Souza

OpsGroup contributor, duty manager at LHR, and lifelong expatriate. I don't know where home is, but I could plan you a route to get there...

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