Readers with long memories will recall the publication, in December 2015, of the European Commission's Aviation Strategy. Part of that announcement was a substantial revision of the Basic Regulation 216/2008 which establishes the European Aviation Safety Agency and confers its powers and functions for regulation of civil aviation.
Despite a hiatus in mid 2017 political agreement on the form of the revision was reached in late 2017 between the European Parliament and the Council, and the final drafts were approved at a Parliamentary session on 12 June 2018 and a Council meeting on 26 June 2018. The revisions will come into force 20 days after publication in the Official Journal, which is expected imminently.
The revisions entail a number of changes to the existing structure, and an enhancement of the powers of the Commission so as to streamline the process of amending technical safety regulation. Nevertheless it was the fact that the new regulation confers unlimited EASA competence over civil drones (which was previously limited to those over 150kg), which was highlighted in the press releases celebrating the imminent change in rules.
The ability of a non-EU Member state to participate in the activity of EASA remains, which would enable the UK to remain within the EASA system following Brexit. This is not something which applies as of right: the UK would have to negotiate membership. Despite greater emphasis on the benefits of such a move in the Prime Minister’s Mansion House speech on 2 March 2018, the latest government White Paper simply refers to the UK “discussing” the UK’s “future status and arrangements” with regard to agencies such as EASA.