Business Travelers Welcome “Sufficient Progress” Declaration
GBTA Urges EU and UK Brexit Negotiators to Quickly Start Discussing Future Relationship
More than a year has passed since Brexit negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom officially started, which gave both the EU and the UK until March of 2019 to decide on the conditions of the UK’s departure from the EU. Following numerous negotiation rounds between both governments, it seems that a way forward has finally been found on phase 1 issues, namely Citizens’ rights, the Northern Ireland border and the financial settlement.
With this “sufficient progress” achieved, the EU expressed its readiness last week to enter discussions on a transition agreement and “its desire to establish a close partnership between the Union and the United Kingdom”. This is good news welcomed by the business travel industry. But the devil is in the details and full clarity on the transition and the future EU-UK relationship, which are highly likely to impact how business travel operates between the EU and the UK, is yet to be found.
Uncertainty is never good for business. That is why following last week’s Council of the remaining 27 Member States, GBTA urges European institutions to officially start the discussions on transition and on the second phase of negotiations quickly in order to give more time, clarity and certainty for the travel industry to prepare and adapt to all these expected changes.
Air transport is one of the key issues to be addressed for the business travel industry. If the UK doesn’t remain in the common aviation area after it officially leaves the EU, there will be obstacles for UK airlines to operate in the EU and with the rest of the world. This could reduce connectivity, travel choices and therefore business travel opportunities. Depending on the UK’s membership to the European Agency for Aviation Safety (EASA), divergence in security or air traffic rules could also appear. Michael Huerta, head of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration traveled to London and Brussels last week to talk with both sides on the importance of clarity on whether the UK can retain its role in EASA. Huerta said it is important to have this clarity early in the new year as it will be “absolutely critical” to understand how aviation safety will be governed in the UK.
As for travelers, they could face longer queues and delays if it the UK decides to introduce restrictive border checks or even specific working visas for citizens of certain EU countries to reduce influx of economic migrants. However, any visa regime between an EU Member State must be negotiated at the EU level, meaning that the UK cannot take a specific approach for one EU country – or it would face retaliation measures from the EU.
The financial upheaval and pending changes to trade and immigration rules would also raise many concerns in corporate management and travel offices – causing some postponement, and even outright cancellation, of business trips. It may also trigger travel budget constriction as management seeks to hedge the uncertainty.
To manage these uncertainties and potential changes to the way business travel will operate in the EU and in the UK, transitional arrangements will be needed to enable the industry to have enough time to adapt to new regulatory and economic environments.
The true impact of Brexit on the business travel sector will only be fully revealed as time passes. But GBTA will be involved every step of the way keeping you up to date on how this will impact our industry and advocating on your behalf for the best interests of our industry.