With the publication of the draft UK withdrawal agreement from the EU, an opportunity has arisen to see just what will happen to flights to and from the UK and the EU from March 29th 2019.
Right of Exit and Entry of the UK and EU States
It appears from the draft withdrawal agreement, that UK citizens will still able to enter EU countries following the exit of the UK in March 2019, with reciprocal rights being granted to EU citizens coming to the UK.
This seems to be the effect of Article 14 of the draft agreement:
1. Union citizens and United Kingdom nationals, their respective family members, and other persons, who reside in the territory of the host State in accordance with the conditions set out in this Title shall have the right to leave the host State and the right to enter it… with a valid passport or national identity card in the case of Union citizens and United Kingdom nationals, and with a valid passport in the case of their respective family members and other persons who are not Union citizens or United Kingdom nationals.
Therefore, provided you have a valid passport or national identity card (in the case of Union citizens and UK nationals), or provided there is a valid passport (in the case of family members and other persons who are not Union citizens or UK nationals), it appears visa-free movement will continue.
It does appear that following the end of the transition period on the 31st December 2020, in order to continue this visa-free movement, passports and national identity cards will require a chip that complies with the applicable International Civil Aviation Organisation standards related to biometric identification:
Five years after the end of the transition period, the host State may decide no longer to accept national identity cards for the purposes of entry to or exit from its territory if such cards do not include a chip that complies with the applicable International Civil Aviation Organisation standards related to biometric identification.
Movement of Goods by Air
It is also clear that the UK will continue to be in a customs union with the EU at least until the end of the transition period at the end of 2020.
This seems to be the gist of Article 47 of the draft agreement:
1. …A movement of goods which has started before the end of the transition period and ends thereafter shall be treated as an intra-Union movement regarding importation and exportation licensing requirements in Union law.
As the movement of goods within the transition period is to be treated an “intra-Union moment”, this would suggest that no tariffs will be applied either by the UK or the EU.
Where does air cargo come into this?
The draft agreement is significant as it seems to explicitly mention goods that have travelled by air. For example, paragraph 3 of Article 47 of the draft agreement states:
Paragraph 2 [the need to prove, in some circumstances, the customs status of goods and the need to prove that the movement of the goods started before the transition period] shall not apply in respect of Union goods that are carried by air and have been loaded or transhipped at an airport in the customs territory of the United Kingdom for consignment to the customs territory of the Union or have been loaded or transhipped at an airport in the customs territory of the Union for consignment to the customs territory of the United Kingdom, where such goods are carried under cover of a single transport document issued in either of the customs territories concerned, provided that the movement by air started before the end of the transition period and the movement ended thereafter.
In short, it appears that during the transition period at least, that UK and EU citizens will continue to be able to travel visa-free to the EU/UK, and that goods carried by air will also continue as it currently does not.
It is important to stress that this is only a draft agreement - it is liable to change and given today’s events in Westminster, nothing is set in stone until it is formally signed off on and agreed.
In addition, this is only my interpretation of these Articles of the agreement - you are welcome to interpret it in other ways if you think it is possible or if you think my interpretations are wrong (I won’t be offended!).
These are the only things in the agreement I could find on air transport - but it appears that fears of planes being grounded following the 29th March 2019 can now be put to bed if this agreement is formally concluded.
Anyone who wishes to look through the draft withdrawal agreement can do so here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/756374/14_November_Draft_Agreement_on_the_Withdrawal_of_the_United_Kingdom_of_Great_Britain_and_Northern_Ireland_from_the_European_Union.pdf