Avition & Brexit 8

Now we have seen the consequences of a UK Government Minister misleading Parliament it’s time to take a Minister’s words seriously.  Chris Grayling the Secretary of State for Transport recently answered an MP’s written question with these words:

“During the time-limited implementation period, the UK will no longer be an EU Member State. However, as set out in the terms of the agreement, common rules will remain in place. The EASA basic regulation will therefore continue to apply, so all UK-issued certificates, approvals and licences will be automatically recognised as valid in the EASA system (and vice versa).  As the Prime Minister made clear in her speech last month, beyond the implementation period we will want to explore with the EU the terms on which we could remain part of the relevant agencies, such as EASA. This will form part of the negotiations with the EU and Member States on how best to continue cooperation in the field of aviation safety and standards post-exit.[1]

The concussion I draw from this is that there’s no need to cancel next year’s foreign holiday because it looks like business as usual, even if we (UK) have left the European Union.

To verify this conclusion, I had a look at the: “Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community” published a month ago.  It’s not much help as there’s no specific mention of aviation or the EASA Basic Regulation (EC) No 216/2008.   However, agreed, and thus coloured in green, is the statement in Article 122 that: “Union law shall be applicable to and in the United Kingdom during the transition period.”

So, until 31 December 2020, it’s like we (UK) have many of the obligations of a Member State but no so many rights.  The UK will not participate in a European Parliament election in 2019.

What is unclear is the plan for the first day of 2021 and beyond.  Yes, there’s an aspiration to continue to play a part in the European Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) but nothing much else.  The need for common and proportionate safety standards will not go away.  The European Union has brought benefits for both UK consumers and the aviation industry.  Better to stay than go.

[1] https://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2018-04-17.136090.h


Aviation & Brexit 7

Generalities are all well and good.  In so far as they are constructive and positive they set a direction of travel.  This is pertinent to the words of the UK Government in respect of the future of aviation safety regulation.  If assurances are correct and negotiations are successful, then UK organisations should experience a gradual transition and not a sudden disruption after March 2019.

Unfortunately, there are some square pegs being presented to round holes.  Most of these are associated with the “red lines” that we are told are the policy for the UK Government.  Three are: regulatory autonomy, an end of European Court of Justice (ECJ) jurisdiction and an end to the free of movement of people.

Currently, there seems to be conflicting indications as to any flexibility on these positions.  If they are hard and fixed, then this means an end of participation in European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).  However, that contradicts the statements from Transport Ministers that the UK wishes to remain an EASA Member State.  So, for civil aviation, will there be a rounding of the square peg?

My focus tends to be on the part of the aviation industry that does; development, design, manufacture, maintenance, repair, and overhaul.  In fact, airworthiness was the original remit for EASA back in 2003.  Since then, that remit has been progressively extended in a way that involves both EASA and the National Aviation Authorities (NAAs).

Today, EASA works on just about all aspects of aviation safety regulation, including; aircraft operations, the licencing of pilots, engineers and air traffic controllers, airports and even environmental noise and emissions.

A full hard Brexit would mean the all internationally required regulatory work would return to the UK.  To meet this the levels of activity, capabilities and resources of the UK CAA would need grow substantially.  This would be true even if the whole exercise was just to rubber stamp foreign certificates and host their auditors.

You might say what a waste of taxpayers’ money.  Maybe not so.  Both EASA and UK CAA work on a cost recovery basis for a large part of their annual funding.  Now, that’s the real rub.  To fund the newly acquired workload UK industry fees and charges would likely increase.  Because industry would continue to be active across Europe then it would then end up paying twice.  Not what the Brexit advocates promised; duplication of activities and costs but with no tangible benefits.

Given this scenario and considering corporate due diligence, international organisations will be looking at the costs, benefits, and risks.  So, what kind of contingencies are being considered?  For some organisations it will be to move their Principal Place of Business and approvals to an EASA Member State.  Defining the term: “Principal place of Business[1]” was one of the tasks taken up in the early days of EASA.  This is to ensure the correct Authority is identified before an application for organisational approval can be accepted and a valid approval issued.

Let’s hope that a firm agreement on continuity will mean this contingency is not needed.

[1] http://publicapps.caa.co.uk/modalapplication.aspx?appid=11&catid=1&id=7872&mode=detail&pagetype=65



Aviation & Brexit 6

Where are we now with Brexit?  This month, a couple of statements have been put in the public domain.  One of them is the European Commission’s publication: “Withdrawal of the United Kingdom and EU aviation safety rules” from 13 April 2018.  This European Union (EU) paper describes the situation with respect to the UK as a non-EU country without a new agreement in place.  However, it’s clear that public statements from industry, the Government and the UK Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA) all indicate a desire of the UK to remain as a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).  That wish will need to be implemented in some manner or form.

In the longer term, there’s some expectation that a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) could be signed between the EU and the UK as a non-EU country.  This would be used to detail the cooperation between the EU and UK, including any mutual acceptance of certificates.

In the shorter term, it’s possible to imagine a Working Arrangement (WA) between EASA and the UK CAA that would address continuing technical matters.

Either way any new agreement is a matter for the EU and the UK Government.  It may or may not be in place during the much talked of implementation period after March 2019.

The UK is unlike other Countries in that it has been a founding member of both the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) and EASA but will be the first to plan to leave the EU.  Nevertheless, in the European aviation field the UK remains a member of intergovernmental bodies like; ECAC[1] and EUROCONTROL.

It is worth noting that the JAA Cyprus Arrangements ceased in 30 June 2009.  Other non-EU States that were part of the JAA had to find new working arrangements with EASA after that date.

Today, four non-EU European States are EASA Member States and have a seat on the EASA Management Board.  The Management Board is responsible for the definition of the Agency’s priorities, the establishment of the budget and for monitoring the Agency’s operation.

It is possible to imagine the UK becoming the fifth.

If this is not achieved, and no unique or emergency measure are in place then significant difficulties will arise.  On its website, the UK CAA[2] has made it clear that even for such an unlikely situation contingency plans are being made.

[1] https://www.ecac-ceac.org/


[2] https://www.caa.co.uk/Our-work/Newsroom/Hot-topics/


Threatening Democracy

Yesterday’s newspapers have a couple of short pieces from hardened Brexiters.  The general theme is; if Brexit is thwarted, in even the slightest then; public’s rage will boil over.  Or we must go all the way otherwise no one will ever vote again.  Yes, it does get that ridiculously hysterical.

Week after week the Brexit supporters’ loose arguments but they trundled on and on.  I can’t remember the last time that they fairly and honestly won a debate without coercion.

Listening to the populist arguments from prominent Brexit supporting MPs, it’s clear they want no relationship with the EU whatsoever in the future.  The mantra “Brexit means Brexit” is still being churned out.  The foolishness of these deceiving arguments is plain to see.  Any Treaty that a Country signs with any other includes obligations and responsibilities.  The idea that we can have a beneficial and positive relationship without any of these is unreal.

It’s true that some people, who rarely if ever vote, suddenly decided to go to the polls in June 2016.  As is often the case, quite a lot were in the mood to give the Government of the day a bloody nose.  Lots went to the ballot assuming their vote would just be a momentary angry protest.  After all everyone had had quite enough of austerity and the blandness of Mr Cameron.

Now, many have recanted and would like to take back their referendum vote.  Our democracy is being threatened by the die-hard Brexit obsessives who fear the fact that a majority of people may have reconsidered.  I believe, this Country is mature enough to have a choice over the deal that is being cobbled together.  It is consistent with our pragmatic traditions.

On a Vote

It has been said that: “The UK electorate is split down the middle, but another vote would make things worse”.  Frankly, that’s not a good argument given the traditionally adversarial nature of UK politics.  You might even say that our whole British political system aims at dividing everyone into one of two camps.

What do I remember about Parliament and the House of Commons? The distance between Government Party and Opposition Party benches is two swords length.  So, don’t give me any of that nonsense about division.  Sure, I’d prefer a more consensual approach to National decision-making but that is not what we have in the UK.

The UK referendum of 1975 was so much easier in that it created a clear winner and a clear looser.  Unfortunately, after so much confusion, muddle and downright lying the 2016 referendum must go done in history as the worst exercise in democracy any Country has engaged in modern times.

Are we just to leave it there and let the British frog[1] be boiled slowly?  Or are we to say – no, enough is enough and act?  I believe, another national referendum is needed to either confirm the decision to leave or to remain a European Union Member State.  Its true there are other ways to move forward and it is a matter of our sovereign Parliament.  Will they or won’t they go for a referendum on the deal?

Let’s consider the three conditions: no referendum, referendum supporting Leave and referendum supporting Remain.

The first case just leaves the sharp divide in place and the frog gets boiled, to use that metaphor again.   However, there’s plenty of potential for a further crisis and the need for a snap General Election.  Nobody gets what they want.

In the second case, where say; in an Autumn referendum the outcome confirms the leave vote, the direction of travel continues but with a lot more resolve.

In the third case, where say; in an Autumn referendum the outcome calls for a correction of direction it can be done without too much pain.

Those who fear a referendum on the deal should think about what’s in the best interests of the whole Country.  Ironically, it’s the period we are passing through that has given most voters a much better understanding of the nature of European Union membership. More than they ever had before 2016.  Knowing what’s at stake and voting accordingly, the result would stick for a good long time.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog


Bad Petition

It seems the ardent Brexit promoters now want to abolish the House of Lords[1].  I guess this is not an unexpected reaction to their vote in favour of remaining in the Customs Union[2].  Foolishness is rife within a vigorous but small section of the population.  We need to remember that it wasn’t that long ago that these people wanted to get rid of High Court judges and called them the “enemies of the people”.  Some are actively calling for a dictatorship to take over by exclaiming: politicians cannot be relied upon to implement the people’s will.

I have some sympathy with the call to: “Give the electorate a referendum on the abolition of the House of Lords” but only if there was an immediate democratic replacement.  Personally, I think the idea of an elected Senate where senators represent the regions of the Country, is a good idea.  That would be progressive.  What I fear with the latest call form the Brexit fanatics is an abolition of the House of Lords with no replacement and thus an elimination of the balance of powers that is essential to a modern democracy.  Dismantling our British institutions at the same time as pandering to xenophobia is a dreadful mistake.  History tells us that moving in such a direction can have catastrophic outcomes.

If we add up what Brexit promoters have achieved since the 2016 referendum one word comes to mind: shambles.  Fiasco, mess, muddle and disaster are words that could do the job too.

In normal times, the loud shouts and cries from the fringes of politics would command only a passing glimpse.  Something has changed with the national media.   Banner headline are composed more to shock and entertain than to inform.  And they all jump on the same bandwagon with just a few variations of coverage.

When a noisy few run around insulting everyone who disagrees with them, the problem is self-evident.  The House of Lords does need reform but where were the Brexit advocates when this was last seriously debated.  In fact, many of them where on the side of defending privilege, traditions and ancient institutions.

The House of Lords should not be punished for applying common sense.  I only hope the House of Commons will apply similar common sense.

[1] https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/209433


[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-43812360


Sunny Saturday Morning

IMG_2217It’s one thing to discuss the technicalities of Brexit but there’s nothing like standing in a High Street and talking to people.  Before the day slips from my mind I thought I’d write a few short reflections.

Our weather hasn’t shown much sign of Spring but on Saturday it was almost as if the heavens were smiling on us.  Sunshine brought lots of people out for a stroll, shopping and much else.  It’s so rewarding working with a likeminded team.  A cross-Party group of us met-up in the centre of the Surrey town of Dorking.  Determined to show that there’s a movement for change.

I approach leafleting with a smile and a greeting – would you like a leaflet?  It works.  Yes, one or two people don’t want to be bothered or smile back but that’s normal.  Who knows what’s going on in the lives of those you meet by chance on a Saturday morning.  Being respectful is essential.  First impressions matter so much.  With a badge, some stickers and colleagues around we made it clear that we were campaigning on Europe.  What we find is that the politeness and civility of most people reminds me that there’s a lot worth fighting for in Britain.

On Saturday, I’d guess no more than 1 in 20 of those I leafleted presented a negative view of what we were doing.  From them, not one original new saying came up.  Responses were mostly stock phrases, like: “We’ve voted once” or “I want out” or “the sooner we get out the better”.   Not the basis for conversation.  Generally street campaigning isn’t about arguing with people.  At its best, its more about connecting with supporters and offering information to those with an open mind.

I did engage with one guy who thought one vote was enough.  My counter argument was the fact that we vote every year in local elections and democracy is open to people changing their minds.  Much as I expected, he wasn’t moved by this way of thinking.   With a small minority there’s a kind of belligerence.  Its true of other life situations too.  Pride or stubbornness or absolute blind conviction means that little real discussion is possible.  The strange thing is often we spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about people who behave this way.

Without a shadow of doubt there’s a strong demand for a vote of the deal.  A clear majority of people we meet in Dorking want to have a choice over the Brexit deal.

The call for a #PeoplesVote is gaining momentum.  Lots support the @peoplesvote_uk campaign for the people to have the final say over the #Brexit deal, not politicians.

Wake up the sentinels

When I half remember good advice, it drives me to do a bit of research.  This week, watching all the questions being asked of Facebook, I couldn’t help but recall something I’d read more than 30 years ago.  Yes, going back that far does have relevance because fundamental questions are exactly that; fundamental.

It seems every time technology advances the law follows but several steps behind.  That’s law makers and those who sit in judgement trying to interpret tomes of law need to speed up.  It was starkly apparent to me that Facebook was getting an easy ride, as questioning politicians struggled to keep up.  Few question hit the mark or even attempted to look ahead.

For me, as for many, even research can’t be conducted without a heavy reliance on technology.  So, I searched with the fragments of what I’d remembered.  Typing into Google’s almighty search engine the two words “sleeping sentinels” because that’s what I thought was the name of a book.

Initially, I didn’t find what I wanted but what I did find was intriguing.  I wasn’t previously aware of the story of the “sleeping sentinel”.  A Union Army soldier during the American Civil War.  He fell asleep whilst on duty, was court-martialled and sentenced to be executed.  Harsh treatment indeed.  But after his death sentence was read, a pardon was read thus saving his life.  Lincoln had interceded on Scott’s behalf.

In this tale there’s an indication of the awakening of the idea of a “just culture”.  Today, people with safety related work are expected to report such a case as; falling asleep on the job due to fatigue.  In a “just culture” they should not be punished if others can learn from their experience.

I digress, since my aim was to rediscover an almost forgotten book on law.  Eventually, I came to a reference to a book called: “The Slumbering Sentinels: Law and Human Rights in the Wake of Technology”[1].  This was the paperback I remembered.

One of the tenants of the book is that the law is sleeping while technology is racing ahead.  Clear insight from the 1970s and 80s trying to consider the implications of personal commuters and alike.

Equally important to the case of understanding Social Media is the changing landscape of political campaigning.  Its only now that everyone is discovering the details of what happened in June 2016 in the UK.

Its Friday 13th and the news media is full of conflict and tension, but I hope this material gets well discussed.  It does amount to finding out, after the event, hugely significant facts about the referendum of 2016.


To quote: “192. If the Commission indeed refrains from even exercising a discretion as to whether to refer a matter to the police or prosecuting authorities until it is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that an offence has been committed, this in our view would constitute an unlawful fetter on its regulatory discretion.”

What a dilemma.  If the Electoral Commission, police or prosecuting authorities do not respond then they are indeed Slumbering Sentinels.

If they do respond, the case could be made for invalidating the 2016 referendum.  To reassure them, as I have been saying in this article, they will not be the first to wake-up while technology is racing ahead.  It’s difficult to foresee how technology will be misused in the future especially when money is no object.  That said, we can’t ignore the facts.

[1] The Slumbering Sentinels: Law and Human Rights in the Wake of Technology (Pelican) Paperback – November 24, 1983 by C. G. Weeramantry


Representative Democracy

It remains remarkable to me that the Government’s stated position on Brexit is: “The British people voted to leave, and the Government will implement their decision. The vote on the final deal will give Parliament the choice to accept the agreement or leave the EU with no agreement.”

A debate will take place in Parliament on Monday, 30 April 2018[1].  This is the result of a petition with over 100,000 votes, that reads: “Parliament’s vote on the Brexit deal must include an option to remain in the EU.”

I wonder how long this Conservative luddite[2] approach to political decision-making will continue.  It’s almost without parallel that a weak British executive such seek to bully a sovereign Parliament into a cul-de-sac.  So, utterly desperate are the current Conservative Party to save the Conservative Party that they resort to attempting to ride rough shod over the British constitution.

Edmund Burke would be turning in his grave.  He’s often considered as an authoritative source for modern Conservative views.  I’ll quote him from a speech to the electors of the City of Bristol on 3 November 1774[3].

“Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole.”

It’s clear that, given evidence that Brexit is not in the general good it should be rejected.  I believe, a general reasoned free debate in Parliament will surely show that Brexit, deal or no-deal, is not for the general good of the nation.  Thus, MPs must have the opportunity to vote for an option to remain in the EU.  This is not a time to smash up our representative Parliamentary democracy.  It’s a time to reinforce it.

[1] https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/205169


[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17770171


[3] http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch13s7.html


Our right to a referendum

I have just read “Why a second Brexit referendum is required by law” and find the arguments made in this article compelling[1].

It’s basically saying, any proposed future EU treaty that transfers areas of power, or competences, should be subject to a referendum on that treaty.  The ‘referendum locks’ introduced in sections 2, 3 and 6 of The European Union Act 2011 (EUA) form part of a broader system of control over the making of various decisions related to the EU[2].

The exit agreement that’s being negotiated by Government Ministers will, if successful result in a future UK-EU treaty.  Thus, it follows that that treaty should be subject to a referendum.  That’s not a referendum about staying in the EU or leaving it, but a referendum on the final treaty that deals with the powers and competences of the EU in relation to the UK post the leaving date.  Since there will be a transition period we know that there will be legal obligations to be met by both UK and EU.

I hope, I have understood this situation correctly as it seems eminently logical.  The EUA remains in place to date.  The reasons for the EUA being made law in the first place remain valid.  As this is the case a referendum on the “deal” is thus required by UK law. To change this the Government of the day would have to repeal this EUA and as a result take away any direct say the British people may have over a final deal and transition period.

It’s not a simple passive matter of something lapsing.  Being of 2011, it’s not an out-of-date law.  A repeal of the EUA would be an active and wilful disenfranchisement of the British people.  Quite the extreme opposite of “take back control”.  More a question of we (Conservative Government) have control and there’s no way we will let the people have a say.   Even to the extent of changing the law to stop a referendum taking place.

[1] https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/politics/why-a-second-brexit-referendum-is-required-by-law


[2] https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/2012/01/12/mike-gordon-the-european-union-act-2011/