Transport is an essential driver of economic benefits in EU-UK relations. Each year, some 210 million passengers and 230 million tonnes of cargo are transported between the EU and the UK, by air, sea, road and rail.

What changes on 1 January 2021?

While the UK was an EU Member State and participated in the EU Single Market and Customs Union, transport service operators could operate freely between and within the Single Market, on the basis of a single licence or authorisation, and without being unduly hindered by border checks and controls.

As of 1 January 2021, the UK will no longer be a part of the EU Single Market and Customs Union, or in the Union’s VAT and excise duty area. It will therefore no longer benefit from the principle of free movement of goods and people. This was the UK’s choice.

Since the UK will no longer be part of the Single Market, all transport businesses conducting operations between the EU and the United Kingdom will have to ensure compliance with EU and UK certification requirements respectively.

The UK will also no longer be a member of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and will have to build up its own capacity for aviation safety purposes.

Finally, transport operators will also be affected by changes in the formalities required when crossing the UK-EU border.

 What is covered by the draft Trade and Cooperation Agreement?

The Agreement covers the terms and conditions according to which EU and UK air transport operators, road haulage and passenger bus operators, as well as maritime transport operators will be able to perform services between the EU and the UK as of 1 January 2021. It also specifies the terms and conditions for EU-UK cooperation in the area of aviation safety.

Importantly, the Agreement also includes provisions to ensure that competition between EU and UK operators takes place on a level playing field, ensuring high levels of transport safety, workers’ and passenger rights, and environmental protection.


Will air carriers still have the same rights to operate between and within the EU and the UK?

As of 1 January 2021, the UK will no longer participate in the fully liberalised EU aviation market and UK airlines will no longer be considered as EU carriers.

As a result, UK airlines can no longer enjoy the same level of traffic rights across EU airspace.

To ensure connectivity between EU and UK airports for passengers, goods and mail, the Agreement sets out new terms and conditions for market access, as well as arrangements for cooperation in the areas of aviation safety, security and air traffic management.

UK carriers will be able to fly across the territory of the EU without landing; make technical stops in the territory of the EU for non-traffic purposes; and carry passengers and/or cargo on any routes between a given point in the UK and a point in the EU (so-called 3rd and 4th freedoms).

UK carriers will, however, no longer be able to transport passengers or cargo between two points in the EU, nor perform onwards carriage services between the UK and two other Member States (e.g. Manchester-Munich-Warsaw). Nor will they be allowed to carry passengers onwards between the UK, a Member State and a third country (so-called ‘5th freedom’, e.g. London-Amsterdam-Bangkok).

The Agreement does nonetheless allow Member States and the United Kingdom to bilaterally exchange such 5th freedom rights for extra-EU all-cargo operations only (e.g. Paris-London-New York).

 What conditions will air carriers need to fulfill in order to benefit from the Agreement?

UK air carriers wishing to fly under this Agreement will have to comply with certain conditions, such as holding a valid licence from the UK’s competent authorities, having their principal place of business in the UK and being majority UK-owned and controlled. UK carriers that are majority UK-/EEA- and/or Swiss-owned and controlled at the end of the transition period may also continue to operate.

EU carriers will have to respect similar conditions on licences and principal place of business and continue to comply with EU requirements on EU/EEA/Switzerland majority ownership and control.

Will UK aviation safety certificates still be valid?

As of 1 January 2021, the UK will no longer apply the EU’s regulatory framework for aviation safety, and no longer participate in the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

The Agreement defines new arrangements for the recognition of future design and environmental certificates, as well as for production organisation oversight, to ease the use of parts produced in the other’s territory.

While this does not remove duplications and additional administrative burdens, it will facilitate the trade in aeronautical products.

The Agreement also ensures that existing design certificates issued under EU rules before 1 January 2021 remain valid, so that products and designs covered by them can continue to be used.

What about UK organisations, pilots, mechanics, examiners, instructors etc…?

Many holders of UK certificates, including pilots, mechanics, examiners, instructors, etc. who wish to continue their activities in the EU were able to obtain a certificate from an EU Member State before the end of the transition period. Furthermore, UK organisations currently certified by the UK competent authorities and who wish to continue activities in the EU have been able to apply to EASA for a certificate to operate as a third country organisation.

Thousands of applications have been filed with EU Member States for the transfer of pilot licences, for example, and with EASA for certificates allowing UK companies in fields such as aircraft maintenance or pilot training to operate as third country organisations under EASA oversight and EU rules.

For more details, stakeholders should consult the relevant Commission ‘readiness notices’[5], or refer to the EASA website for technical issues[6].

Does the Agreement contain specific provisions to ensure fair competition between air carriers?

The Agreement will guarantee that airlines on both sides compete on an equal footing. Not only will the agreement’s horizontal level playing field provisions, including those on social and environmental issues, apply to aviation. But the Agreement also includes specific provisions on business issues such as ground handling and slots (non-discrimination and effective access), alongside provisions for the protection of passenger rights.

Furthermore, the Agreement ensures that neither Party can prohibit the taxation of fuel supplied to aircraft on a discriminatory basis, as this would go counter to ensuring a level playing field and meeting climate-neutrality targets.

Will EU passenger rights still be protected in the same way?

As of 1 January 2021, the level of protection of passengers travelling between the EU and the United Kingdom will be affected, as the UK will be a third country.

This means that EU air passenger rights will continue to apply to flights operated from the UK to the EU by an EU airline, or to flights operated from the EU to the UK, whether operated by an EU or a UK airline. They will not however apply to UK-operated flights from the UK to the EU.

Nonetheless, the Agreement provides that both Parties will guarantee that effective measures are put in place to protect access to information for passengers, passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility, reimbursement and compensation, and the efficient handling of complaints.


Will road hauliers still have the same rights to operate between and within the EU and the UK?

As of 1 January 2021, UK companies will no longer hold an EU licence or be able to perform transport services within the Union as part of the Single Market.

The draft EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement provides for quota-free point-to-point access for operators transporting goods by road between the EU and the UK. This means UK lorries would be able to reach the EU and return from the EU, including when not loaded. The same rights are conferred to EU hauliers travelling from any point in the EU to the UK, and back from the UK to anywhere in the EU.

Without the Agreement, only a very small number of operators holding licences from the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) would have been able to conduct such journeys.

UK and EU trucks will also be able to perform up to two additional operations in the other party’s territory, once they have crossed the border.

This will allow EU hauliers that carry a load to the UK to perform two cabotage operations in the UK, thus limiting the risk of having to travel back to the EU without a load.

For UK hauliers, these additional operations can be composed of two cross-trade operations (i.e. transport operations between two Member States) or one cross-trade and one “cabotage” operation (i.e. a transport operation within two points of a single Member State). Special provisions are made in the case of Ireland, as Northern Irish hauliers will be able to perform two cabotage operations in Ireland.

The Agreement also provides for full transit rights across each other’s territories (to reach third countries or other parts of their own territory).

Does the draft Trade and Cooperation Agreement contain specific provisions on road safety and fair competition between hauliers?

Yes. All operators, drivers and vehicles involved in cross-border journeys will be bound by common high standards set out in the agreement, which are specific to the road haulage sector. These include in particular the working conditions of drivers, their level of qualification, technical requirements for vehicles, and minimum conditions for operators to obtain a licence. Such conditions are essential to ensure fair competition, good working conditions for drivers and a high level of road safety. In addition, the fair competition and social provisions that apply to the entire agreement will also apply to the road haulage sector.

Are there any special provisions to ensure the transport of goods by road between Ireland and the rest of the EU can continue?

The Agreement allows for full transit rights. This means EU operators can cross Great Britain to reach the EU, or other third countries, from Ireland (the so called “land bridge”). Similarly, UK operators can transit through EU territory to reach other parts of the UK (e.g. Northern Ireland) or third countries. These provisions will allow the continuation of logistics links between Ireland and the rest of the EU via the UK. Irish businesses will be able to continue to use these trade routes, unless they decide to use direct routes to the rest of the EU by sea or air. Operators based in Ireland and in Northern Ireland will also be able to perform two cabotage operations in the other’s territory.

Will bus services operate as before between the EU and the UK?

The draft EU-UK Agreement will allow regular international bus services to continue to link the EU and UK. Its provisions reflect those of the Protocol of the multilateral Interbus Agreement on regular and special regular services, which is expected to come into force in 2021. When the Protocol comes into force, the equivalent provisions in the Agreement will no longer apply.

Occasional international services will be covered by the multilateral Interbus agreement of 2002, which covers the EU and currently seven non-EU countries. The UK will accede to that agreement on 1 January 2021.

The Agreement includes special provisions applicable to the island of Ireland, where regular and occasional bus services that connect Ireland and Northern Ireland will be able to continue their services in the same way as before.


 What does the draft agreement say on rail services via the Channel Tunnel?

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement does not include particular provisions on rail services.

Cross-border rail services will be able to continue after 1 January 2021, provided that railway undertakings from the EU and the United Kingdom hold licences valid under EU law for those sections of the service operated within the EU. Undertakings must also comply with the legal requirements applicable in the European Union, e.g. with regard to safety certificates, rolling stock authorisations and personnel (train drivers’) licences;[7] they will need to hold valid UK licences and comply with UK requirements for operations in the UK.

 What does the draft Trade and Cooperation Agreement say on maritime transport services?

The provisions on international maritime services are in line with other EU Free Trade Agreements and would guarantee open and reciprocal access to the other’s international maritime transport markets (e.g. access to ports, access to port services such as pilotage, containers repositioning etc.). National maritime cabotage operations will however be excluded.

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