US and Britain officially sign agreement on post-Brexit air travel

The United States and Britain officially signed an agreement on air travel following the European country’s vote of independence from the European Union.

The Air Services Agreement was signed on Tuesday by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the British counterpart U.K. Transport Minister Grant Shapps, according to Reuters. The signing of the document officially concludes negotiations reached in 2018.

Britain voted to leave the EU in a June 2016 referendum, but progress on approving a plan for the nation’s exit was stalled for more than three years. In October 2019, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a Brexit deal with the EU, but Parliament later blocked a vote on the deal, forcing the prime minister to ask the EU for another extension to pass it.

Johnson then called a December election in an effort to win enough conservative seats to get the deal passed. He led the Conservative Party to victory in the United Kingdom’s legislature, winning 80 seats and a Tory majority. A month later, members of Parliament passed the “Withdrawal Agreement Act” and sent it to the queen for approval, making “Brexit” official law in January 2020.

The new U.S.-U.K. aviation agreement keeps flight operations between the countries similar to when Britain was in the EU, Reuters reported. However, the coronavirus pandemic has limited international travel.

Some airlines, including United, have launched new COVID-19 testing programs to deter government officials from advocating future travel restrictions. In October, United announced that it will begin the testing program on flights from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey to London Heathrow starting Nov. 16 until Dec. 11.

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