This week continues the uncertainty that surrounds Brexit. I was pleased to have the opportunity to attend a meeting called “Beer and Brexit” with Philip Rycroft the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Exiting the European Union. The meeting was organised by “The UK in a Changing Europe” at King’s College at Bush House in London.
Rycroft is undoubtably an interesting character. He seems accustomed to overwhelming jobs, as he handled Scottish devolution and the Deputy PM’s office during the coalition. Throughout the conversation, led by Professor Anand Menon, Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs, he was as guarded as anyone would expect from a senior civil servant.
Nevertheless, I did draw one or two conclusions from the answers he gave. One is that the UK civil services is out to hire lots more smart people, particularly in policy development. Another is that his department might continue long after Brexit day or at least its teams may continue. Now, I imagine that includes Transport and Aviation as much as it does any other major subject.
Appearing unflappable Rycroft was asked about what annoyed him the most. The question was asked; was it former colleagues making criticisms in the national press?
My view of his answer was that he didn’t mind provided they stood by their comments and it was anonymous briefings that were the problem. This was said just after references in the conversation to the Armageddon news stories around preparedness for a no deal situation.
He confirmed there will be a Government White Paper on Brexit but wouldn’t be drawn on when it would be published. With today’s news we now know from the Prime Minister that this White Paper will only be available after the up and coming European Union summit. Mrs May is reported to have said: “I’ll be bringing my ministers together for an away day at Chequers to finalise the White Paper we’re going to be publishing”.
All in all, it seems the “can” continues to get kicked down the road by the Government.
There are some hints as to what is to come as published this week was a presentation to explain the UK Government’s vision for a future UK-EU partnership and the framework for transport. This is a 19-page presentation which is board and general but positive and upbeat.
Another separate but equally interesting item that I would like to comment on here is a well thought out paper called: “Brexit and EU Agencies: What the agencies’ existing third country relations can teach us about the future EU-UK relationship”. This paper does highlight the numerous possibilities that could be applied in the field of aviation regulation.
If you like, compare and contrast the detail in the UK Government presentation and the paper of the Forschungsgruppe EU/Europa, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (@SWPBerlin) – Research Division EU/Europe, German Institute for International & Security Affairs. Now I can see why the civil service needs to hire some more smart people to get through Brexit.