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” 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.