I must say, I feel more positive about the prospects for the UK’s continuing participation in the workings of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Yes, we (UK) remain mired in uncertainty. Yes, it’s the non-transport politicians who are making the running and yes, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. But at least a good deal of serious consideration is being given to possible scenarios for a post-Brexit world.
Top of everybody’s list in aviation is that the UK should continue its membership of EASA, at least for the much-discussed transition period or implemention period as it might better be called. Although this does mean losing voting rights and the opportunity for Directorships to be taken up by Brits, there’s enough advantages to keep the wings of aviation flying.
In the European aviation system, one of the key committees established by European law, often called the EASA “Basic Regulation” is the: EASA Committee. This is a high-level committee that handles: “common safety rules in the field of civil aviation”. Now, the Agency’s rulemaking procedure is such that it submits its formal technical opinions to the decision-making process of the European Commission, which is, in effect, the EASA Committee. So, to influence future European aviation rules it’s important to be present and able to speak at the meetings of this key committee.
The examples of Norway and Switzerland show that non-EU Countries can exercise a degree of technical influence at this level. In fact, this is not surprising since much of that which is taken forward requires a high degree of consensus to work in an integrated system. Also, both Norway and Switzerland are represented on the EASA Management Board. Which is reasonable because they both make financial and staffing contributions to the Agency.
I think, Switzerland shows a way forward. Not for reasons that the Country is like the UK. After all, it’s smaller, it’s federal, speaks many languages and we don’t have the Alps. On the other hand, Switzerland, like the UK has a manufacture that depends on access to a global marketplace and is well connected to around the world. Also, in recent times, their federal aviation authority has been progressive in the field of aviation safety management.
There’s a chance of reaching Brexit day with no clear vision of the future but having a basic contingency is better than nothing. Naturally, I would rather see the UK play a full part in European aviation as it has with great success in past decades. Sitting in the second row at the table isn’t the best place for a Country with our incredible heritage. There’s no barrier to being European and being Global even if there’s a block in the minds of some Westminster politicians. As the joke about being lost and asking directions goes: “I wouldn’t start from here, Sir”.