The Financial Times has reported that UK access to the EU’s single aviation market post-Brexit faces uncertainty after Spain announced at the weekend that it would block UK access unless the terms of the deal exclude Gibraltar’s international airport. The 300 year old dispute between Spain and the UK over the ownership of the rock of Gibraltar could prove to be a major stumbling block for a post-Brexit aviation deal, with one Spanish diplomat commenting “a deal that is applicable to the airport of Gibraltar would imply recognition of the legal right of the UK to the territory”. The options for the UK’s air access post-Brexit include attempting to retain membership of the European Common Aviation Area, ensuring full rights for the UK, or negotiating a bilateral “open skies” agreement, which is likely to carry certain restrictions. In any event, both deals would need to be supported unanimously by all Member States and it is now clear that Spain is not prepared to agree to terms granting Gibraltar airport the same rights as UK mainland. The disagreement over Gibraltar is also holding up a number of current EU aviation laws in the pipeline, including a revision to passenger rights on issues of compensation and rules simplifying air traffic management.
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